Monday, August 6, 2012

Are you a tri-sector athlete?

I like the multidisciplinary sports:  3 day eventing where horse and rider demonstrate grace in the dressage, courage in the cross country and agility in the show jumping; and the -athalon contests (tri/pent/hept/dec) where athletes like the extraordinary Ennis display their confidence, flexibility and excellence across various disciplines.

Giddy with Olympic fever and drawn to the usefulness of sports as a metaphor, I find the term 'tri-sector athlete' particularly compelling.   Attributed to Joseph Nye at Harvard, it is someone who can operate effectively across private, public and not-for-profit sectors.   These 'athletes' recognise that our social, economic and environmental issues are complex, interconnected and cannot be solved by one sector or one approach alone but require a more collaborative, holistic approach.   

The importance of the tri-sector athlete is gaining momentum, capturing the imagination of McKinsey, forming the essence of the Tri-Sector Forum, and highlighting what organisations like Common Purpose specialise in:  bringing people from different backgrounds together to give them the skills, connections and inspiration to become better leaders both at work and in society.  

From my experience of working in and across the three sectors in sustainability and leadership, when people are exposed to different sectors they: 

  • see a bigger, fuller picture
  • develop a richer, connected vibrant network
  • enhance their understanding of, and empathy towards, different views and opinions
  • find creative solutions
  • become more flexible and adaptable

Regardless of our leadership aspirations, the concept reminds us of the value of seeking new perspectives, seeing the world through other people’s eyes and trying different things.  Reflect on your own day to day activities and interactions, your network,  Linked-In contacts, reading list, interests etc. How varied are they?  

As they say, variety is the spice of life...

Images:  sourced from and  (05/08/2012)

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