Creating More Women Leaders in Football, 5 must-have Qualities

By Sonia Denoncourt

There is more pressure than ever to get more women in higher administrative and executive positions in refereeing and in football. Great leadership is not easy to define, and great leaders are always in demand.

What skills will a leader require to set herself apart and get the highest position? In Football, there is a need to promote more dynamic, knowledgeable women leaders. What does it take? 

“The best leader is the one who drives her team towards the same goals with efficiency, reliability, fairness and get the results needed with harmony, humility and positive outcomes.” Sonia Denoncourt

The most needed qualities are:

  1. Effective communication. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator. A great communicator inspires people with a connection that is genuine, emotional, and personal. She will understand people and can respond to their needs.
  2. Have a clear vision: “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh. A great leader will inspire others to actualize the team vision and make it their own.
  3. Humility: Great leaders are humble and show by example by doing anything they can. She will not take advantage of her position of authority to make her feel that they she is better than anyone else.
  4. Courage: An essential quality for any leader. She will make the tough decisions and protect her group, she will take the heat of any situations to allow the group to believe in her and have courage themselves. For the courageous leader, adversity is a test. A poor leader is selfish and take the easy and safest path because they prefer to cover themselves rather than lead.
  5. Authenticity: simply be honest in all matters – not just what you say and do, but who you are. By being transparent, showing your values and being honest, you will get respect by people around you. Walk the talk!

I am delighted to see leading sports organizations wanting to get more women in leadership positions because they value diversity and their qualities, and not simply to achieve a “quota” of gender percentage representative. Yet, we are far from a fair world.

Every four years, when the women’s World Cup is held, it brings a boost to the women’s rights and more opportunities and projects are created as a result. This World Cup had a significant impact on social media and hopefully more professional leagues & more high level competitions will soon follow. I believe that in our competitive world when similar qualities exist between men and women; a woman shall be given the job so we can fairly increase opportunities. And this, especially within women groups. For example, at this last WWC in France there was only 8 women coaches amongst the 24 teams represented. Fast tracking is not the solution as we all aim to get quality over quantity. To offer equal chances is the key to success.

FIFA has launched the first edition of the Female Leadership Development Programme in 2015 wishing to increase the number of role models around the World and to have more growth opportunities. More initiatives like this are needed.

Women can be the game changers. Making football equally accessible to girls and women, and closing the gap in equality is a constant goal to achieve. There are fantastic leaders out there waiting for a fair opportunity. Go get them!

Sonia Denoncourt is a former FIFA level referee, achieving some incredible accomplishments including 3 FIFA Women’s World Cups and 2 Olympic Games. She now works with a range of referees and leagues to focus on education and development. You can follow her updates on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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