What the Matildas have taught us about the value of purpose

Of everything that has been said about the Matildas, writes Sue Papadoulis, founder of Profile Media, the message I’m most enamoured with came from coach Tony Gustavsson – the Matildas are in touch with their ‘why’.

For the Matildas, ‘why’ is not about winning. It is to inspire and unite a nation. This is a brand of football we have never seen before -- nor in any sport for that matter -- and it has connected with the audience in a deeply impactful way.

These values place a greater emphasis on playing as a team, loyalty to their teammates, trust in themselves and each other, connection with the fans and playing with joy.

It is the embodiment of a more values-based and female way of operating, with compassion, empathy and from the heart.

When the Matildas regrouped before the penalty shoot out in the legendary quarter final game against France, Gustavsson welcomed them with a smile and helped them relax. This was in stark contrast to the French coach, who aggressively shouted at his players, perhaps trying to raise the energy.

There are many lessons for business and government in the Matilda phenomenon.

The impact of the Matildas on women’s sport, the game of football and the cultural identity of Australia could not have been bigger – even if they won the World Cup.

I firmly believe winning would not have made more of a difference to the massive impact on sport and our culture – where TV ratings and streaming numbers are into the stratosphere (an audience of over 7 million watched the semi-final) and families are loving elite sport, regardless of gender.

If anything, the Matildas losing the semi final has only made the country prouder. The team played with dignity, stayed true to their values – and this meant even more than winning.

I can’t help but find alignment to a movement close to my heart – purpose in business, where companies are a force for good and drive profit through purpose.

As Carolyn Butler-Madden said in her book For Love and Money:“I’m talking about purpose as the beating heart of an organisation. Inspiring and energising its people, shaping its culture, creating collaboration opportunities with partners, building movements of change through its marketing, driving innovation and creating meaningful impact that stakeholders feel proud about and ultimately creating strong, resilient and human businesses for the twenty-first century.”

Carolyn says, “if your brand doesn’t have a compelling brand proposition, then it doesn’t stand for anything in the hearts and minds of consumers. As a result there’s little reason for consumers to choose your brand over your competitors.”

All this at a time when governments and other sporting codes like NRL, AFL and tennis struggle with allegations of sexual assault, drug use, and public meltdowns.

Gustavsson has spoken a lot about the Matildas’ mental strength, and how it’s supported by the team dynamics and living and breathing their values. Their ‘why’ is at the centre of who they are and how they play the game – and it has led them to success both on and off the pitch.

There are lessons for us all in what the Matildas are bringing to our culture – not just for sport.

Sue Papadoulis is a former journalist and founder of national PR firm Profile Media Communications. She is also on a mission to amplify positive news stories through The Good News Movement.


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