Against All Odds

Blog 2022-05-10 Underdog

Underdog … long-shot … outsider. Commentators used these words to describe a horse that replaced one that scratched the day before the Kentucky Derby. Given the odds of 80:1, this last-minute entry – Rich Strike – astounded everyone by winning this prestigious race. 

That got me thinking about brilliant leadership, and how leaders look at their teams. How quickly is a newcomer (i.e., “outsider”) assimilated seamlessly into an existing team? What assumptions are made about those who are a bit quieter than others? Why are certain people left out of growth opportunities?

One of my clients led a team comprised mostly of Type A personalities, yet he wasn’t known for nurturing a high-performing team; rather, he was known as a leader who plays “favorites.” That meant that he gave the same people all the high-profile projects. 

His leadership style may be considered practical by some people because of an assumption that previous successes (i.e., wins) have a higher likelihood of succeeding/winning again. BUT … what if there were underdogs on the team? What if the quiet team member had untapped skills?  

“Never saw it coming … out of nowhere … stunning upset” were the headlines after the Derby win. Interviewed after the race, the owner and trainer were asked if they honestly thought their horse had a shot at winning; they wouldn’t have entered Rich Strike, they replied, if they didn’t think he could win. 

Rich Strike’s ‘leaders’ believed in him. Given the impact of brilliant leadership: How might team members perform if they knew their leaders believed in them? What I know from my years as both an executive and a leadership catalyst to executives and teams is this: When people know that they are valued and the work they do matters, they will go the distance. 

This Week’s Challenge: Think about the people with whom you routinely interact – in life and at work. Who are you underestimating? What assumptions are you making? How can you demonstrate your belief in their capabilities and/or potential? 

Subscribe to

Impact Your Leadership

Terms and Conditions checkbox is required.

If you'd like to dive deeper into leadership and all that it means, we invite you to sign up for our insights and tools (they're free).

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Please leave a comment or suggestion for a video you love so others can be impacted by your leadership.


  1. Doug Brady on May 10, 2022 at 7:07 am

    Terrific Tee, and so right!

    Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Comment