How Women in Leadership Shape SPORTFIVE

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From leading the team behind the world’s most popular football video game, EA SPORTS FC, to activating Citi's partnership with the New York Mets, SPORTFIVE's women in leadership are shaping the future of sport.

Check out this article to learn more about how female leaders at SPORTFIVE are achieving great things through different leadership styles.

What makes a good leader? 

It’s an age-old question that continues to be debated to this day. Some argue that leadership is all about relinquishing control and delegating tasks, some say that it’s about leading by example, whilst others put it down to how long they allow for lunch breaks. But what really makes a good leader? 

At SPORTFIVE, we don’t believe that there is just one route to becoming a good leader, instead, we believe in the importance of individual freedom for our people. This means that we trust our people to voice their opinions, champion causes, question decisions and ultimately be themselves

This trust fosters an environment which accommodates all of our people and allows different leadership styles to blossom. These varying leadership styles are the foundation of SPORTFIVE and nowhere is it clearer to see than with our women in leadership. 

In this article, we celebrate the different leadership styles behind a group of leaders which is often underrepresented in management positions, particularly in the sport industry, but plays an integral part in shaping the culture and success of SPORTFIVE. 

Trust in empathy and experience

As SPORTFIVE’s EA SPORTS Account Director, Lizzie Stokes leads the team behind one of the organisation’s longest running accounts. 

With 10 team members spread across four countries, Lizzie’s leadership and management skills are crucial to the success of a team which is responsible for activating and managing EA SPORTS’ top tier global football properties across clubs, leagues and player talent in Europe. 

Having started her career as a volunteer and intern at various sporting and music-led events, before working for both brands and rightsholders across a number of sports, Lizzie gained experience of how sport impacts its many different stakeholders. 

It’s through this experience that her leadership style has been moulded. By instilling her team with a need to understand stakeholders, as well as drawing on her own experience when empathising with her team and their roles, Lizzie has created a culture of internal and external consideration.

“My experiences from my early career have really shaped who I am as a manager today. From starting off as a volunteer to working as an intern and then progressing to work with clients in the private, public and charity sectors... I’ve learned to understand how sport impacts so many different people"

Lizzie Stokes, SPORTFIVE’s EA SPORTS Account Director

Collaboration is key

One of the greatest things about sport is its ability to bring people together under a common objective. 

Few know more about this than SPORTFIVE’s Virginie Adnet. In her role as Sponsorship Director Olympique Lyonnais, Virginie and her team of 12 are employed on behalf of Olympique Lyonnais to drive the commercialisation of the organisation’s Men’s, Women’s, Academy and Basketball teams, as well as the Groupama Stadium. 

With the team’s responsibilities covering every aspect of the organisation’s partnerships, Virginie emphasises the importance of close collaboration - both within her own team and with Olympique Lyonnais. 

It is this collective approach that forms the foundation of Virginie’s leadership style. With her team operating alongside Olympique Lyonnais’ staff in the heart of the organisation, the Groupama Stadium, Virginie ensures that each team member is fully aligned with the organisation’s values and vision. 

This collaboration is something she also implements in the internal team structure. Here, she underlines the importance of involving team members in decision-making processes and encourages wide-spread ownership of the various projects to maximise trust amongst the team.

Educate and empower  

Similarly to both Lizzie and Virginie, Lindsay Brinkmann, Senior Vice President, Consulting, credits her success as a leader to her team.

In her role, Lindsay is responsible for managing SPORTFIVE’s relationship with long-term client Citi. Her team of 12 are charged with strategic guidance, activation development and event execution for the group’s partnership marketing activities - including Citi’s naming-rights deal with the New York Mets.  

In Lindsay’s eyes, her job as a leader is to make sure her team is well equipped to over-deliver on client expectations. This is built around a three-pronged approach which starts with building a strong client knowledge and ensuring that the team knows how to address pain points to enable their clients to deliver the best work internally - ultimately, allowing the brand to shine externally. 

Secondly, Lindsay wants her team to take the time to “celebrate the fun” of working in the most exciting industry in the world by immersing themselves in events, atmospheres and the many wonderful people that sport brings together. 

Lastly, she places great emphasis on empowering her team and trusting them to lead their own projects. By encouraging and refining their individual skills within the collective structure she trusts her team to continue delivering creative solutions year after year.

“We work in one of the most exciting industries in the world. As a team we need to embrace that energy and let that fuel our passion to deliver for our clients.”

Lindsay Brinkmann, Senior Vice President, Consulting

Trust-oriented leadership

In the introduction to this article, we shared SPORTFIVE’s view on leadership: that there isn’t one route to becoming a good leader, instead, we believe in the importance of individual freedom for our people. This means that we trust our people to voice their opinions, champion causes, question decisions and ultimately be themselves

As SPORTFIVE’s Senior Director People Operations and Recruiting, Julia Farshi is one of the key drivers in ensuring that this take on leadership is implemented across the business. In her role, Julia manages a team of seven who are responsible for managing people-related strategic and operational processes as well as ensuring the employee life cycle, and handling the business’ recruitment.

With much of her role centred around managing and understanding relationships and people, Julia has built her leadership style around trust. This trust allows her team to call upon their people skills to manage situations, relationships and conflicts in their own individual style. 

By trusting her team, she fosters an environment where they can be themselves and are free to make mistakes and learn from them - forging a team with real resilience and fearlessness, two of SPORTFIVE’s core values.

Embracing freedom of leadership

People often look to the sporting world when they think of leadership. Whether it’s a passionate no nonsense captain who leaves it all out on the pitch or a charismatic coach who rejuvenates their side during a break in play, sport seems to capture a lot of qualities that people feel belong to leadership. 

Although sport is filled with countless examples of these types of leaders, it is also home to a host of different leadership styles which go beyond the conventional view of what leadership looks like. 

At SPORTFIVE we’re proud to understand that leadership, like people, comes in all different shapes and sizes. By embracing these different leadership styles we can foster creative freedom which can lead to unrivalled success in sport.

If you’d like to find out more about our way of working, visit the SPORTFIVE careers page

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