Hamilton Forth Recognising & Realising Potential Workshop with Leon Smith, GB Davis Cup Captain

At the Livingston James Group, our purpose is:

 ‘…to advise and support people and organisations to realise their potential so that together we can impact lives and communities for the better’.

As such, we were delighted to welcome Leon Smith, Head of GB Men’s Tennis and Davis Cup Captain to lead a Recognising and Realising Potential Workshop for a selection of Hamilton Forth clients.  The workshop focused on leadership during a crisis and recognising and realising potential, relating techniques used in the world of high-performance sport to the business world.

A group of leaders from a variety of businesses within the Scottish tech sector attended.  Here we share insights from the Workshop.

Tackling Imposter Syndrome

Leon recalled taking up the Davis Cup Captain role 10 years ago when Team GB were at an all-time low and in a period of crisis, somewhat similar to where many businesses find themselves today. Leon by his own admission was not the most obvious choice for this role having not played at the highest level in the game like previous Davis Cup Captains.  The first question from our group of attendees was how he dealt with this and did he suffer from imposter syndrome like so many leaders do, especially if just new into a role.

Impostor syndrome can apply to anyone who is not able to internalise and own their successes and one way in which it can dealt with is to reach out to mentors to who can reassure you.  Leon spoke about how Judy Murray as a mentor helped him with his own imposter syndrome and accepting that whilst he wasn’t able to bring Grand Slam experience to the locker room, he could bring preparation, communication, and a focus on having the right team dynamics. Leon also discussed the importance of laying out goals or purpose to your team.  In his case, on his first Davis Cup tie he grabbed a whiteboard into the locker room and wrote up: “A well prepared TEAM on a journey back to the World Group”.  They won that first tie.

Focus on Data

As the GB team progressed, Leon spoke about the importance of data in recognising and realising potential future GB talent.   The LTA have developed an App that their team of coaches use to record the performances of a potential player that they are considering investing in.  They also hold data on all potential opponents in the Top 100.  One attendee noted that it is very clear that data beats algorithms. New/different data and quality data are far more important than fancy algorithms.

Leon discussed the importance of also incorporating gut feel into processes.  Leadership styles need to adapt when it comes to data.  Some players lose focus if they are told they need to serve into a certain player’s backhand every advantage point.  They can be distracted by data overload and lose their natural flair. Our audience observed in the follow up session that this can happen with digital marketeers when over analysing work based solely on campaign data.

Success in Business and Elite Sport

Similarities between leading in business and elite sport have been in recognised for years.  The group discussed Dave Brailsford, the former performance director of British Cycling’s focus on marginal gains as well as renowned U.S. basketball coach John Wooden’s pyramid of success.  In the future, it is certain that many will look to Leon Smith’s achievements and take on board his approach and leadership style to help drive teams forward.

To conclude, the leadership qualities Leon used to build what has ultimately been a world beating team include;

  • Setting a vision
  • Meticulous preparation
  • Humility
  • Emphasis on team dynamics and value fit
  • Respect
  • Flexibility
  • Two-way communication
  • Empathy


A final observation from the group was the similarities across developing the next tech talent coming through and comparing it to how the next generation of tennis talent is being nurtured. At Hamilton Forth we like to be data led but recognise on occasions it’s worth going with gut feel.


For more information on Hamilton Forth events programme, or to discuss your technology and change recruitment needs contact [email protected].

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