Commonwealth Games England recently appointed Sarah Winkless as their new Chef de Mission, for the Gold Coast Games. It’s a challenging role; the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was the most successful ever for Team England, with a total of 174 medals lifting England to the top of the medal table and it’s a tough ask to achieve those heights again, especially in the Aussie’s back yard.

Given these challenges Commonwealth Games England wanted to appoint a really strong leader, which led CEO, Paul Blanchard to think about the characteristics of the best leaders and how the person they would choose for the role, embodies these. Blanchard identifies these characteristics below. 

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Firstly, there is experience.

Good leaders are those who have a broad range of experiences and take key learnings from them in order to become better. Some of the best leaders have suffered numerous setbacks and overcome adversity to get to where they are now. This gives them empathy for others and an ability to support others in achieving their goals, a key attribute for The Chef de Mission who has overall accountability for all athletes during the Games. Our successful candidate qualified to throw discuss for Team England at the 1994 Games in Vancouver, but was not selected. She went on to win two gold medals at the World Rowing Championships and claimed a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Her experience as an athlete gives her invaluable insight into athlete requirements.   

However, imagine a potential leader with all the right strengths to excel, the knowledge and the experience. Now imagine that this person, though perhaps excessively equipped to handle the job, has absolutely no interest, they go through the motions but their heart isn’t in it.

That is why passion is key to successful leadership.  

The best leaders have a fire for their work, an endless drive to learn more and give their best to the task at hand. Someone who cares about not only the cause for which he or she is working, but also the other people who are involved in the effort. Passion for the projects, for the company and for the people involved are key to successful leadership. She feels very strongly that “The Commonwealth Games can be the first major, global multi-sport competition where young athletes have the chance to represent their country at a senior level so it is vital that Team England athletes are fully prepared to perform at elite levels in 2018.”

It is the ability to build strong teams and inspire them that we saw in our chosen candidate. She won a Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration for her work in sport, previously held the position of UK Chef de Mission for the Youth Olympic Games and served as the inaugural Chairman of the British Olympic Association’s Athletes Commission. She was also the first woman to be appointed as a Boat Race umpire. To top it off, in 2015, she was awarded an MBE in The Queen's Birthday Honours for ‘services to sport and young people’. By demonstrating a desire to serve others, and do the best they can do, good leaders inspire people to follow with equalled belief.

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I am therefore really glad to finally reveal that Sarah Winkless will take up the role of Chef De Mission and look forward to seeing her work alongside the existing Commonwealth Games England team and additional Games Delivery staff to provide leadership and direction to Team England before, during and post the 2018 Games.

If you want to hear more from Paul Blanchard, why not watch his career insight interview filmed earlier this year? 

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