A pleasantly shocking behavior


What leadership lessons can one learn from the World Cup series? On his website briandoddonleadership.com, Brian Dodd presents what he calls: “7 Leadership Lessons from the ‘Pleasantly Shocking’ Behavior of Japan’s Fans and World Cup Squad.” Quite long for a title, but I can assure you it is worth the read. I have asked permission, and out of Brian’s generosity, he has granted permission to feature his article: 1

On Wednesday, November 23rd, Japan defeated Germany by 2-1 in the World Cup. What was most extraordinary was not Japan’s performance on the field but their performance as athletes and fans afterwards.

On public display was Japan’s post-game behavior by its fans. A group of Japanese fans did not riot. They didn’t vandalize buildings or set police cars on fire. They did not trash the city. The Japanese fans brought trash bags and cleaned up the stadium afterward!!! Shocking!!!!

This was not isolated just to the Japanese fans. Check out the team’s locker room after their victory. Their players spotlessly cleaned their locker room. Once again, shocking!!! It is as if they robbed Germany of its dignity on the field and then cleaned the crime scene afterwards.

I have never seen anything like this. In fact, how many people reading this post recently commented about family members who didn’t help clear the table or wash the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner??!!

These are 7 leadership lessons I learn from this “pleasantly shocking” behavior by the Japanese fans and their team:

Culture of Excellence

Marketing guru, Seth Godin has taught that culture can be summed up in 11 words – “This is who we are, and this is what we do.” You don’t stumble into the type of behavior shown by the Japanese fans and team. It requires intentionality. It requires planning. It requires expectation and accountability. Most importantly, it requires an attitude that says, “This is who Japanese fans and players are, and this is what we do. We are people of class, dignity, excellence, precision, and leave things better than we found it.”

Lack of Entitlement

Why should we expect people to do something we can do ourselves? After all, it is my locker, seat, dirty clothes, and garbage when I attend a sporting event. We are grown people. How hard is it to clean up after ourselves? Who are we to expect someone else to clean up after us? We should have dealt with that issue in elementary school.

Attention to Detail

How you do anything is how you do everything. The way my seat looks, the way I fold my clothes, the organization of my workspace, and my general appearance all reflect the value I place on “little things.”

High Character and Conduct

My private character and conduct will determine my ultimate public success. No one ever expected these pictures to go viral. The fans and players cleaned up after the match because it was the right thing to do. It is who they are and what they did. These little things were done in private, eventually leading to public acclaim.

Serving Others

We are citizens of the world. The fans and players cleaned their areas for many reasons, but one was to make it easier on the stadium personnel coming in after them. Cleaning stadiums and locker rooms are incredibly hard work, and the Japanese fans and team made the jobs of the stadium personnel a little easier by placing their needs ahead of their own. Be a good citizen.

A Healthy Sense of Pride

Leave a positive mark on the world. Be the type of person and team that when someone follows you, they are overwhelmed by your goodness and generosity.

Some Things Require No Talent

Whether this Japanese team is one of the best soccer clubs in the world will soon be determined. But regardless of someone’s level of talent or whether they win or lose, they can still do the right thing. It does not require talent to be kind and caring. Regardless of their level of talent, anyone can serve someone else and improve their life.

May we all be leaders who create a culture of excellence where there is no entitlement, and high-character people sacrificially care for others and make their lives better. May we all be like the Japanese fans and their soccer club.

Dodd calls it “pleasantly shocking,” and we are inspired and encouraged by it. We need leaders who serve and servants who lead, which is the true essence of leadership.

Thank you, Dodd, for pointing this out.



(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or other podcast streaming platforms.)

1 https://briandoddonleadership.com/2022/11/29/7-leadership-lessons-from-the-pleasantly-shocking-behavior-of-japans-fans-and-world-cup-squad/


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