Balance & Beyond Podcast
#15 Channel Your Inner Matilda: 5 Lessons in Leadership
Ever wondered how sportsmanship can translate into powerful leadership skills?
We promise that this episode will leave you with a fresh perspective. We delve into the world of the Matildas, Australia's national women's soccer team, who have not only redefined women's sports but have also provided an enlightening blueprint for leadership. This team's daring journey to the World Cup semi-finals is peppered with lessons on courage, balance, instinct, and knowledge. Watch as we dissect how they trail-blazed a path in an industry often overshadowed by men.
Now, let's talk energy - personal, collective, and how it plays a massive role in leading. Borrowing from the Matildas' playbook, we discuss how they've harnessed their collective energy for success and the necessity of managing your energy as a leader. We don't shy away from the subjects of fear and vulnerability either. Join us as we dig into the power of fear in amplifying uncertainty and the essential role of vulnerability in leadership.
Moreover, we explore personal inspiration and confidence, teaching you how to channel your inner Matilda to reach your goals. Here's a guide to becoming a woman of influence, Matilda-style!
Here’s what you’ll discover:
- How to unlock some personal gems from the Matilda’s inspirational journey, beyond the stories you’ve already heard about inspiring women
- The superpower that Mackenzie Arnold used, that you also have access to, that led to the epic penalty shoot out result
- How Coach Tony thinks about the crowd, and why you don’t need 75,000 fans to capitalise on the same benefits
- Why vulnerability is a double-edged sword and how you can walk the fine line between being authentic without being perceived as weak
- While all teams have the belief they can win, what was different about how the Matilda’s built their own unshakable confidence that you can harness for your own record-breaking results.
Whether you’re a soccer fan or not (let’s face it, the entire nation is now converted), there are gems in here for you that will blow your mind.
Enjoy the episode.
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INTRO: Welcome to Balance and Beyond, the podcast for ambitious women who refuse to accept burnout as the price of success. Here, we’re committed to empowering you with the tools and strategies you need to achieve true balance, where your career, relationships and health all thrive, and where you have the power to define success on your own terms. I honour the space you’ve created for yourself today, so take a breath, and let's dive right in…
It's been a very exciting couple of weeks here in Australia and, like many of you, our household has been captivated by the journey of the Matildas through the World Cup. And, alas, the fairytale wasn't quite what it was meant to be, and what we'd all hoped it would be, but there are some brilliant lessons for us in the Matildas. Yes, I know they've galvanised the nation and all of those things, but I talk about becoming a woman of influence. And very often we think that those women of influence are only coming from boardrooms, or suits, or high heels.
And today I want to share with you some insights about what makes the Matildas women of influence, and as you start to understand what this really means. What are the traits that make people successful? What are the traits that make people fulfilled? Then you can find these icons, this inspiration anywhere and, ideally, look to apply it in your own life as well.
So, let's talk about five leadership lessons from the Matildas. Now, first of all, I want to make sure we define what a woman of influence is, because it's a term that's thrown around. My definition is that a woman of influence is somebody who has an impact on others. It's a very, very simple definition. You know, I like things simple. And I'm pretty sure that the semifinal 11 plus million people watching is the definition of having an impact. It's had an impact from a female sports representation perspective and from all kinds of diversity. It's galvanised grassroots. I know my daughter who plays soccer is now going, “When can I play summer soccer?”
So, it has been amazing. And what's brilliant is it's broken down a whole lot of biases. That it's no longer just about football, or soccer, women's football, it's just football, and everybody's watching it. Men are talking about it. And one of my favourite quotes is a little boy who asked his mum, “Mum, what's a boy Matilda called?” Now, that is awesome. Which brings us to our first thread here of what makes the Matilda's women of influence. And it really takes a special person to trailblaze a path for others coming before them.
And, if we look at the history of the Matildas, many of them grew up playing in all-boys teams. Because there weren't girl competitions at that point in time. They had to wear boys’ uniforms. They were told they couldn't play. I didn't realise this, but in many countries females were actually banned from playing soccer, because it was unbecoming of a woman until the late 70s. So, we've come a long way in many of our lifetimes.
It takes courage to be the only, whether that's the only girl in an all boys team, whether it's the only person who identifies, you know, who loves somebody different, who feels like they stand out, to actually thrive in that type of way. And it takes a huge amount of creativity, because you will see all the beautiful stories of the Matilda's. They haven't let injuries and various setbacks actually get in their way. You know, they get dropped from the team, and they haven't let that stand in their way because they knew what they wanted.
It takes a special kind of person, it takes a certain kind of person to say, “You know what I want?” “I want to have a baby.” “And I know I don't have a partner, so I'm going to go down the IVF path, and do it myself.” That there's women in all walks of life that do this. But, what I love about what we've seen in this soccer team, is that we've had all these beautiful examples brought forward around this hero story. And that is the common thread amongst many of these Matildas, but also many women of influence. They've blazed a trail, whether that's in an industry, or whether that's being a working mom.
I remember, I would turn up to the school gate when my daughters were little, and I'd come to have a defining moment. I remember I got an early flight home from Melbourne. It's because an event in the afternoon shifted, and I got an early flight, and I came straight from the airport to school pick-up. Now I've been in Melbourne for a couple of days. I've been presenting in a conference. I was suited and booted, I had the black heels, I was in the suit. I had makeup on, my hair was down, and I was carrying a wheelie suitcase. And I've rocked up at school, and everybody else has looked at me and gone, “Ooh, aren't we looking a little bit fancier today?” Meanwhile everyone else is in their activewear. This was pre-COVID.
I felt like there was something wrong with me. And then I found out that, because I still carried all the mental-load back then, I'd forgotten to tell my husband about some kind of big day. So, “Oh, what did you bake for that?” I'm like, “Oh, screw you guys.” And so those types of experiences mean that we have to have a thick skin. And that is something that really is fundamentally behind so many of us who are bucking convention. Who do want to be amazing mothers and absolutely rock this career. So it takes a very, very special type of person, which is our number one trait here in the Matildas, and what I see in women of influence.
Now, the second trait that I have loved the coverage talking about with the Matildas, is that a woman of influence balances her head and her heart. When I heard Mackenzie Arnold, the Australian goalkeeper, talking about the penalty shootout and how she managed. You know, they spent a lot of time studying all the opposition. And if there was a shootout, you know, what their history was. Would they go one way? Or would they go another? So, she had all this information in her head. And yet, she said there were some instances in that shootout where she knew all this information, and she still went with her gut. She overrode her mental knowledge and went with her instinct which said, “Go the other way.”
And this is what a woman of influence has to learn to do. We have to learn not just to trust our brains, which have got us so far and are wonderful, but so many women have lost access to their intuition. They've lost the ability to trust themselves because they don't have any evidence to support it. “So why would I go with my gut?” “Because, oh what if it's wrong?” “At least this way, I've got data that points to this person always goes to the right, or this person always goes to the left.” And what's ironic is that when we spend so much time in our heads, we actually cut off access to this intuition. So, not only do we not trust it, but we're disconnected from our bodies.
And if you're the type of person who often feels numb. Or who only really feels negative emotions, like stress and overwhelm. And everything's just a ball of "ick", and you don't know what it all is, you can't name it. Maybe all you've got is sad, mad and glad, the three most common emotions that people can name. Well, that's a sign that you aren't tapped into your emotions. You will also not be tapped into your intuition. Which is an absolute shame, because that intuition, as a woman of influence, allows you to make fast decisions. It allows you to back yourself. It allows you to be in a room and these “spidey senses” go off and say, “Something's not being said.” “Something's not right.” And you have to back yourself.
So, those who are able to really learn how to tap into your intuition, are being present in the moment. You're not gonna access your intuition if you're guilty and beating yourself up because, “You shouldn't have said that,” and “What are they gonna think of you?” And, “Oh my gosh, when I got home, it's book week and how am I gonna handle it?” And your brain is just a mess.
You have to learn to be present. You have to learn to slow it all down, so that you can access this inner wisdom that is there within you. And, ironically, it's often talked about in sport. About the power of visualisation, and instinct, and tapping into it. And yet in business, and in life, we don't give it the same amount of credibility. And it's time that we shift that. Let's take a leaf out of the Matildas’ book and go with that instinct. And make sure you know how to get it back.
Lesson number three that I would love for everybody to adopt, is that it is all energy. If you've been lucky enough to see the documentary on the Matilda's on the Disney Channel, where they've done a six part series in the Road to the World Cup, their coach, Tony, who now I'm sure will be the honorary Aussie like they all become, I remember him standing pre-game talking to a whole range of family and friends who were coming to watch a game, and he said, “Send your confidence and send your courage out there on the pitch.”
He said that because, “They will feel you.” “If you’re nervous, they will be nervous.” “If you are worried, then they are going to feel that.” “So, send them your energy.”
And Tony's often called the meditating coach because this is what he does. He understands how energy works. And he understands that when you've got a team, he uses, I guess you'd say “mainstream words”, like “chemistry” and “dynamics.” But, that's all energy. That's all how things flow between people, and they know that. You know you drop one person in, or you take one person out, and the whole dynamic of 11 people on a field can completely change. And that is energy. And that, when you're in a crowd of 75,000 people, is what you are enjoying. It is collective energy.
And, as women, we are not very good at understanding our own energy and understanding how to use it for influence. Because, what you may not know, is that in a room, the strongest energy will absorb the weaker ones. And by strongest energy, I mean the person who is most embodied in their energy. You've been in a room where somebody is so toxic and so negative that you literally walk out wanting to shake yourself off, because you feel like it's on you.
And likewise, you've been around somebody who is so empowered and fun, that you walk away with this ginormous grin on your face, and you feel amazing. That is because you have literally synchronised with their energy. Don't forget. Fear is one of the strongest energies for many people. So this is why, sometimes, when you're around people, you will walk away more uncertain, and their fears will amplify your own.
So, learning how to manage your own energy, understand your own energy, and really embody confidence, calm, clarity, creativity, curiosity. All these wonderful words, many that start with C, are so important for us to own, so that you can influence a room and energy. A lot of people don't understand how it works. But, an analogy I love is that right now, in this room I'm sitting in, there are a whole range of sound waves that I can't hear. Whereas, if I was to grab a radio and tune it to a particular number, then I would get Taylor Swift. I would tune it to a different number, and I might get ACDC.
They are all actually present in this moment. It just depends on my tuning. It depends on what number I'm going for, and the same is true of energy and emotion. So, I can tune myself to calm, or I can tune myself to overwhelm. And what you need to realise is that a woman of influence really understands, “Where am I tuned to?” “How do I, regardless of what's going on around me, ensure I'm tuned into confidence?” “Am I tuned to calm, and I'm able to really see everything that's going on in this space?”
So if you were able to grasp this concept, and really learn how to use it, and in my programs, we go deep on energetics. Because, it's been an absolute game changer for me. And there's so much depth of wisdom that is not out there in the common domain. So, this is what is sending women, what is making women stand apart.
The fourth lesson, you could say, is your leadership technique. What I am loving about the Matildas is the ability to be vulnerable. This is a word that has become a bit of a buzzword. And many people now are talking about authenticity and vulnerability in leadership. However, it can be a tricky one, because there are some people who are not yet perhaps on the vulnerability bandwagon. Maybe they haven't been listening to enough Brené Brown, but for some people, vulnerability is weak. Vulnerability is dangerous because you could be taken advantage of, and somebody could use it against you.
But what I love about sport is it's a place where raw emotion is completely allowed. It's the one place, for a long time, where men have been allowed to cry. And it’s on the football field, because they haven't been allowed to cry anywhere else. And so, seeing the Matilda's showing up at press conferences with puffy eyes after their loss. And also with sheer elation. And their faces that can't hide the joy, and the surprise, and all these amazing, positive emotions all at once when they won the penalty shoot out.
There are these beautiful photos that are circulating in the media and on socials, they're more running towards Courtney Vine as she scored that winning penalty, they are actually understanding vulnerability. Once you are confident in yourself, well then, it's okay to be vulnerable. You don't need to learn how to temper it. You can simply turn it up and turn it down, depending on your audience. And that is what a true woman of influence does. And when you are vulnerable, what happens?
People can also mistake vulnerability for emotional hijacking. And by that I mean, being vulnerable doesn't mean just vomiting your emotions over everybody. “I'm being vulnerable, I'm telling you how I'm feeling.” Well, in some environments, that's not appropriate. And, to be honest, that is actually called “projecting your emotions.” That's not actually handling it.
So when you're able to understand “What is going on with me?” And right now is the right time for me to talk. And I loved the Aussie coach in one of the Matildas Asia Cup matches, which was shown in the documentary. They had a shocking loss, and they had got in the huddle at the end, and everybody was visibly upset. And the coach actually came to the middle and he said, “I'm too overcome with emotions.” “Right now, I can't say anything meaningful, so I'm going to go away, and process my emotions, and we'll talk again in a little while.”
That is the definition of vulnerability. He didn't cry and shout and rant and rave and say, “I'm being vulnerable and sharing my feelings.” He knew that, in that moment, sharing his feelings was not going to be good for everybody else. It's not good, perhaps, for the rest of the team to hear of a coach's disappointment or anger or frustration. Sure, he might want to share that. But he has to go and process his own emotions, to take himself out of it, to then be able to come back as an emotionally regulated human, and be able to now share what really is underneath those feelings.
When something happens to us, we have an instant reaction. And when we decide, “I'm being vulnerable”, that's not helpful, because that's usually our own trigger, and that's our own stuff. Being vulnerable is saying, “I'm going to need a moment to compose myself.” And actually understanding, and having the self-awareness to know when to share that vulnerability, to walk that line, and not project or vomit your emotions on everybody else. Because that's not their stuff. That is yours.
So, learning how to dance between vulnerability, self-awareness, and managing your emotions, that is a beautiful space to be in. And when you're able to hold that and, importantly, hold it from a place of knowing, that it doesn't mean anything about you. I had an incident a couple of months ago where, for the first time ever, I cried in front of a group of clients. I was sharing a very personal story, and it was something that they knew. They didn't have to rescue me, because I didn't make that emotion mean anything about me.
And one of the reasons I was able to do that, was because I knew I had to share that particular story. I knew I would probably cry, and sometimes, it's also important for other people to see their coach as somebody who is also human, and who is also going through things. But I was strong enough to recognise what I was going through. To recognise my emotions and to be able to show them that, “You know what?” “You can handle anything.” “You're allowed to be vulnerable, but you can also learn to sit with what is there.”
So all these leadership lessons here, from the Matildas start to stack, can make you so incredibly powerful when you are that special person who can trailblaze a path. When you are balancing your brain, and not just living in your head, but also accessing instinct and intuition. When you understand energy, and how that flows, how to find that courage and calm and confidence. And then to know, “When is the emotion yours?” “When do you share it?” “When do you keep it to yourself?” “How do you use vulnerability as a superpower?” “As a way of being authentic and real?”
Because in a world that can be increasingly polished, or brainwashed, or whatever you want to call it on social media, there is this quest for authenticity at the moment. For leaders who are not perfect. For leaders who don't have it all together, but who know how to share that in a way that actually instills more confidence in their team, rather than less.
And now let me share what I have seen across, not just the Matildas, but all women who are, you could say, becoming these women of influence, and having a big impact in life. And big impact doesn't mean I'm expecting everybody listening to this podcast to do something that's viewed by 11 million people. It might be an impact in your family, an impact in your team. It might be an impact with your partner, or with your kids. Impact is up to you to define. But I want to make sure that you are finding this fulfilment and having this impact that you want to have in the world.
So the last piece, you have seen it before. You have seen media articles about it again and again and again. It's spoken of in all the conferences. The coach talks about this all the time, and many teams say they have it.
But it's the one thing that all the other teams have commented on when it comes to the Matildas. And that is that they have belief.
And by this, I mean, there's often that saying, “I'll believe it when I see it.” But, the Matildas had never been this far, and they had an unshakable belief that they could win the World Cup. And the same is true of you. It's not “See it and believe it.” It's actually, in truth, “Believe it, and then I will see it.” This comes down to really understanding who you are. Understanding your purpose. Understanding what makes you, you. Understanding why you're here.
Because if you are waiting to see it, and you don't have any bigger reason why you're doing it, you don't have a foundation of a strong belief. Well then, you're just getting on that pitch and playing 90 minutes of football, coming off, and playing 90 minutes of football, and coming off, and doing another load of washing, and getting up, and going to work, and picking up the kids, and doing dinner, and waking up, and doing it all over again. That's a rubbish way to live. I call this the treadmill. This is if you don't know why you're doing it, if you don't have a belief that's bigger than you, and if you don't have a purpose.
What I love about the Matildas, is they wanted to inspire the next generation. And if you hear any of them saying it, they've obviously done some kind of team building workshop, or purpose driven workshop, because they are all saying the same thing, and it doesn't sound scripted. It's what they've obviously come up with together. So, they know that they wanted this to extend beyond a football tournament. They wanted to inspire everybody. Not just women in sport, but they wanted kids to now go and play. They wanted women behind them who wanted to come into this game, to have it easier than they did to pass on the jersey to somebody, and have made it better than it was before.
And this is the goal of many of us in life. We want to make our children's lives easier. We want to make it easier for our team. We want to make it easier for our replacement to leave our role, or our business, better than we found it. But to do that, you have to have an unshakable belief in you. In why you're here, and what you're here for. And it's only when you have that, that you will get off the treadmill. And that's what makes life worth living. What's the point of just waking up and doing it all again? If these women were busting themselves, and pushing their bodies, and training every day, and watching everything, they're eating to simply get on, kick a ball around, try to get it in, and get off again.
Well, it's fun. But it's a lot of hard work, for some of them didn't even touch the ball that much. Some of them spent the whole night on the bench and they've been waiting four years for this. But, they still feel like they are part of something, because they have a belief in each other. In themselves. And it wasn't based on what they do. It wasn't based on how they kick a ball. Sam Kerr didn't play a huge amount of minutes. I mean, she scored a goal that will be remembered forever, but it was her leadership. It was her personality. It was how she galvanised them. It was her belief. It was who she was that mattered. Not just what she did. She transcends that. And when you are somebody who still believes that you are what you do, and you can't find a role for yourself beyond that, then that's when life feels very draining and it feels very unfulfilling.
So today I ask you, as we enjoy this halo effect of the Women's World Cup, and everything that the Matildas have come to represent, how can you see this as another example of deep diving on? What are the characteristics that make a woman of influence? What is here for you? To inspire you? And while I'm sure we'd all love to look like the Matildas, and have their speed and strength and abs and arms and everything, fortunately, a couple of decades on, and not years of training or skill or talent, perhaps for some of us, are going to make that be the case. So, let's take other lessons that are applicable to us in our lives. I want you to remind yourself that you're a special person.
Do you know what you want, though?
Do you know why you are blazing this trail?
When do you have enough balance between your head and your heart?
Do you have access to your intuition? Or are you just all stats and all data and all logic?
How can you close that gap and make sure that, just like Mackenzie Arnold, you're accessing both? Because that is what makes you really, really powerful.
Are you radiating confidence?
Are you managing your energy and ensuring that you're able to really project what you want and own that room energetically, not just verbally, or with your presence?
Are you able to show the world the real you?
Do you know what vulnerability means?
And are you in control enough of your emotions that you're not going to project them on everybody else, but use them as an absolute superpower which can be a game changer?
And last, but not least, do you have an unshakable belief in yourself? Do you know who you are? Are you connected to your “why”, to your purpose?
And only once you believe, are you going to see whatever it is that you want. Whether it's happiness, or a new career, or a new house, or whatever it is that you want. You have to believe it. And to do that, the work is not outside of you. The work is inside of you. So, whichever of those you needed to hear today, I invite you to marinate on it. To really think about which of these is going to move the needle for you, because there is a wealth of wisdom there that we can thank the Matildas for. But maybe this is the inspiration you need to find your own Matilda within.
OUTRO: Thank you for joining us today on the Balance and Beyond Podcast. We're so glad you carved out this time for yourself. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend who might need to hear this today. And if you're feeling extra generous, leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice would mean the world. If you’re keen to dive deeper into our world, visit us at www.balanceinstitute.com to discover more about the toolkit that has helped thousands of women avoid burnout and create a life of balance, and beyond. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next time on the Balance & Beyond Podcast.
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