The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is renowned as one of the most challenging feats any person can take on. Crews with generally no previous sailing experience, travelling 40,000 nautical miles around the world on a 70-ft yacht. We’ve been lucky enough, at Mission Performance, to be a part of this incredible race for many years. Having entered teams in the 13-14 & 15-16 races and now currently residing as the Official Learning & Development Provider.

With Race 17-18 just 2 days away, we wanted to share some of the insights we’ve gained. Below are 6 Lessons for Leaders we learnt over the years that can be applied to any industry.


Choosing your Mindset

‘How you define yourself as a leader’

Choosing your mindset and mood is the ability to pro-actively manage your mental state for any given situation and is key to facilitating high performance in teams. The crew have a responsibility to prepare themselves fully for the reality of the race. Skippers too have a responsibility to assess the mindset they bring on board and the impact they have on others. Skippers that choose a mindset (values, mood and beliefs) that pushes power and influence downwards will be more successful than those that choose a mindset that centralises power in the position of the skipper.

Business leaders will also benefit from a shift in emphasis in how they define themselves as leaders. They do this by appreciating the difference between being a good leader and fostering great leadership. It’s all about, adopting a mindset and behaviours that the essence of a leader’s role is to create opportunities for and deliver results through, others.

‘We, not I’

‘Team ego over your individual ego’

Develop your culture and values through dialogue, not an imposition. It must be nurtured through a series of very specific actions and events in the early stages of team formation. Leaders that impose values and culture on their organisations will, like the poor performing skippers, store up the potential for conflict.

For businesses, shared values and behaviours are founded in, and affect what people believe and so create commitment rather than mere compliance. That’s what makes culture a force for competitive success. Owning your culture, by implication also fosters confidence and a mindset to challenge, which is key to innovation, learning and ‘divergent thinking’.

Shared Intent

‘Clear exchange of expectations’

Shared Intent, clarity of expectations and how you exchange them is crucial to performance. Skippers that have clear goals, expectations and standards whilst facilitating and encouraging dialogue alongside alignment with their crews, will be more successful. In addition, skippers that communicate a very clear intent to stretch expectations of what their crews are capable of will have a team that is more agile, resourceful and responsive to changing situations. As it gives people both the freedom and the ability to act, knowing that their actions support the overall objectives.

Business leaders that define their intent very clearly and change the dynamic to facilitate greater initiative, will, like the podium skippers, be more successful. Furthermore, an added benefit, is that it frees them up to position themselves where they add the most value e.g. by updating strategy, coaching or building strategic capabilities.


“Move the ‘D’ down”

The quicker you progress through the stages of Dependency > Independence > to Interdependence and Collaboration. The sooner you will achieve more together. A cliche of course but much easier to say than actually achieve. However, it is gold dust when you do.

The Skippers’ most powerful keys to it, proved to be:

  • Pushing information downwards and encouraging initiative.
  • Establishing an effective chain of command (leading through your watch leaders and appointed functional heads).
  • Quick and frequent briefings, feedback loops and reviews to ensure efforts are coordinated. Share ‘what works’ and more importantly, to learn from mishaps before blaming (between collaborators) takes hold.
  • Encouraging total openness about strengths and weaknesses between members or sub teams within the larger team. Business teams that elevate collaboration to world-class levels this way will at least experience less rework, hassle and better relationships. They may also deliver results faster, bigger and with less risk.

Pull and Push

‘Make coaching part of the culture, not the bureaucracy’

Coaching capability as a leadership style supports the achievement and maintenance of a high-performance team. The continual ‘steepening’ of the learning curve and coaching the right skills, beliefs and attitudes to all of your team will mitigate complacency and build resilience across the whole team. In addition, internal ‘deep’ experts were recognised for sharing knowledge rather than ‘hoarding’ it to protect position and status. Businesses that adopt coaching as their predominant leadership style will deliver more with greater levels of engagement. Crucially they future-proof a competitive edge by continual transfer of knowledge from “the best” rather than becoming over-reliant on them.

Force Multipliers

‘Resilience, agility and performance orientation’

Force multipliers is a set of characteristics that separate a good from a great performance in the race. They rely on the previous 5 insights being in place but when executed deliver disproportionate levels of engagement and performance.

These are termed the ‘force multipliers’ and relate to resilience, agility and performance orientation:

  • Skippers that project optimism and confidence, that choose their moods for the situation and spend time with all of their crew individually were able to ask more of their resilient crews when it mattered.
  • Additionally, skippers that thought and prepared for the ‘what if’ scenarios built greater confidence and agility in their crews.
  • Equally important, skippers that placed a huge emphasis on technical excellence, shared their infectious drive to succeed, that attended to the small details on seemingly meaningless legs, won by the tightest of margins.

These are the behaviours and beliefs that underpinned the podium successes.

Written by
Maya Lewis

Combine our Pillars
to multiply the impact

Our diverse team are all drawn from performance backgrounds. None are professional trainers, all are practitioners in their chosen field.

They bring the lessons from a wide variety of professional arenas to your project. All have a track record of performing in high profile and challenging situations. 

These situations make for  great teachers. They teach you the importance of leadership, courage, cheerfulness under adversity, selflessness, professionalism and the need to focus on the basics executed flawlessly.

Get in contact