Apropos the IHF Statutes: what kind of Leadership is needed at the IHF?

Many persons in leading positions in this world have a completely false understanding of what [u]leadership[/u] means and what is needed and wanted from that kind of position.

A traditional and out-dated (mis)understanding is to [u]confuse leadership with power[/u] and decision-making authority. A more [u]modern, constructive and helpful[/u] way of defining leadership is to think in terms such as [u]strategizing, coordination, facilitation, motivation and encouragement[/u]. Most experts emphasize that it has less to do with personal knowledge, actions and decisions, and much more to do with how one gets strong groups together and provides them with the structure, resources, independence and inspiration to achieve great things as a [u]team[/u].

The form of leadership needed also depends on the [u]context[/u]. An international sports federation consists of a spectrum of participants, from traditional powers with substantial expertise and resources, to beginners with lots of enthusiasm but with inadequate know-how and resources. In this setting, like in any society, the focus must be on organizing a [u]sharing or redistribution of resources[/u] (technical know-how, best practices and financial capacity). There is also a need for a degree of coordination and standardization (for instance, adherence to the same rule book). Of course, there is a need for a central function through which competitions are organized. In summary, we are talking of a [u]service organization[/u], which exists for the aggregate benefit of its participants, not an organization that exists for its own sake. This must be reflected in the leadership style.

With this emphasis on [u]coordination and facilitation[/u], where the needs must be matched with existing resources, it should be apparent that the key ‘players’ are [u]those who require help[/u] and best understand their own needs, and [u]those who are being asked to share their knowledge and resources[/u], as a sacrifice but for the common good in the form of the global growth and the development of the sport. It goes without saying that this latter group deserves a major say regarding the goals and their implementation. And it should also be obvious that a ‘[u]bottom-up’ approach[/u] to leadership and management is what is needed. The active stakeholders need to be listened to, for the sake of fair and efficient resource sharing. A ‘top down’ direction from someone who thinks they ‘know better’ is out of place. The key direction comes through the [u]team[/u] of experts and administrators that is handling the coordination and facilitation

In my experience, it is quite clear that the desirable form of leadership and management has for some time been pursued by the EHF. By contrast, a steadily increased emphasis on outdated forms of ‘leadership’ is being pursued by the IHF and its president. The proposed changes in By-Laws or Statutes would clearly make things worse. Therefore, it is not surprising that the EHF is protesting these changes and warning about their serious consequences. Moreover, it is necessary for the EHF not just to think globally but also to speak for the majority of those handball federations who are the [u]providers[/u] of know-how and best practices and also the main [u]providers[/u] (through the IHF elite events and related income) of the financial resources that are being shared.

Personal instincts in favor of autocracy tend to be deeply rooted and do not normally diminish over time, as has been seen apropos the IHF Statutes. The letter from the IHF to the EHF (see THN article immediately below) sadly confirms that. It becomes absurd when the autocratic IHF accuses the two EHF leaders of ‘acting out of personal interest’, it becomes almost amusing when the IHF leaders suggest that it is a sign of democracy when the IHF council votes in support for its president (after he personally insisted on 95% of the final changes in the current version of the Statutes), and it becomes truly embarrassing for the IHF when their letter essentially accuses Messrs. Lian and Brihault of racism.