Cameron Schwab – What is needed from a leader in a high performance environment.

Interview with
Cameron Schwab
Cameron Schwab – What is needed from a leader in a high performance environment.

Cameron Schwab. High-Performance Leadership Coach.

The parallels between sport and business run deep with ‘team’ and ‘leadership’ as strong contenders for inclusion in both arenas. What best describes a good leader and how do you create the Doppelganger team that fits? Is leadership an innate talent that just needs pulling to the fore, or is it a skill that you learn and fight to achieve? 

Leadership according to Cameron Schwab is an intertwined challenge no matter the professional sector. His twenty-five years at the helm of several elite sports teams began at age 24 as CEO for top-flight AFL team Richmond. It was a tough training ground for prime leadership which Cameron translates into the metaphor of the swan: smooth sailing on-water, gauche and clumsy on-ground – a mixture of ease and angst.

Cameron’s background in high-level sports leadership has now morphed into high-performance coaching for businesses in the fine art of CEO-ing.

As a business owner who has navigated the overwhelming passage to leadership it probably seemed like a challenge way too hard for your capabilities if not your ambitions, "The notion of high-performance is easier to talk about than it is to do". 

But trying hard to get there's “not going to kill you” (unless once at the top of the mountain, you don't like the view - a whole different scenario.) Part of the journey is expecting that as a leader you’re in for the hard yards; in accepting that your imposter syndrome may well be eternal, in committing to exploring new territory daily, and that it’s never going to be easy.

What can make the leadership game a little easier is having a great team. Setting standards for your team to aspire towards can be a shared process which generates healthy, symbiotic relationships within the work environment. The team itself has a leadership hierarchy that comes into play, just like on the sports field, and all collaborative, contributory, and cooperative efforts from members create powerful adjuncts to overarching management from the top.

The result is that self-responsibility becomes the success motivator rather than ego, and once engaged, you’ll have an outstanding workplace culture. When your team is on board with offering strategy and accountability the expectations from both team and management are aligned and that delivers incredible results.

“The most mature examples of leadership come from the conversations ground floor personnel have about expectations – better than boards, committees or senior leadership teams.”

Cameron Schwab,

Creating this kind of performance mindset for your team to adopt is a learned behaviour taught by modelling. It relies on encouraging individual players to work well within their assigned - or assumed - roles by being clear on expectations. It's unfeasible and unnecessary to expect a stellar performance from each team member "not everyone's going to be a game changer; some will just be role players and work effectively to their capabilities". These tactics are equally respected and valued.

Clarifying expectations can be assisted by some simple reflection on what’s important TODAY. Spend 3 hours, every 3 months, answering 3 questions:

  1. What does the role expect of me right now?
  2. What do I expect from the role?
  3. What do I expect of myself?

And if there's an incongruence in your answers, make changes or at the very least admit you don't have the right solution right now. Block pointless noise and pare down the situation to find clarity and priority, "I've never found anyone who gained the competitive edge from their inbox!" And although your team may well be hoping for some magic fairy dust, they’ll respect you for your willingness and humility in doing the prep work to Find Something (Cameron's trademark). 

Finding something about your capabilities as a leader relates as much to this humility as it does to ambition – helping your team feel good about themselves, allowing them to set standards, believing in them, having the capacity to create belief “Do I believe in my people and do they believe in me?What do I need to see in my people for me to believe in them, and what to they need to see to believe in me?"

Then make the hard calls. Expect to be scrutinised and judged on those decisions, but persevere and above all, avoid throwing a tantrum or the same solutions at different problems. Do throw control and ambiguity on the scales and try to find the balance. 

"If you want to be a brave and courageous leader but you don't do things that are brave and courageous, then you're a fraud. Leadership is a brave fight that requires humility, courage, and calmness."

Cameron Schwab, 

That calmness is key because there’s no room for emotion when you need to take a stand for standards to be upheld. Be emotionally invested, yes, but be clear on your expectations - and think like high-performance football manager Neil Craig who likens coaching to piloting an aircraft: when dealing with a thorny issue, stop and check:

  1. Am I calm?
  2. Am I humble?
  3. Am I clear-headed?
  4. Did I take it personally?
  5. Did I wriggle my toes? (took Cameron 20 years to learn that one)
  6. Did the plane crash?

Find out how you can become a courageous, confident and creative leader at Cameron’s website

Download his book: ‘More to the Game’ and learn how to create high-performance habits that lead to high-performance behaviours.

And never forget how hard it is.

By the way, if you need more help in moving your business from ordinary to extraordinary visit me, Craig Oliver at

Or follow fellow business owners on their journeys by checking out our O2E Business Academy on Facebook.

And read the show notes from our other amazingly informative, inspirational and gritty podcasts at

So many insights, tips, and ideas to be had! Just look back, listen, and learn.


Go on, smash through the glass ceiling, and move your business from Ordinary to Extraordinary.


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