John Steele is a former professional soldier, athlete, sports coach and Olympic Leader. He has been Chief Executive across a range of sectors. Drawing on leadership experience of nine different Olympic and Paralympic Games (including the amazing events at the Rio Games), John reflects on the lessons from this unique period in British sport and relays his fascinating views on creating high performing teams.
When it comes to leadership and change, few business speakers are as well-placed to deliver valuable and insightful messages as John Steele, Chair of the English Institute of Sport and Executive Director of Sport at Loughborough University.
His reflections are based on three areas in which he has extensive personal experience – the military, the corporate world and the sporting arena.
Indeed, inspired from PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, by the most successful performance ever for Team GB, he has a whole host of new business and leadership insights into how this was brilliant performance was achieved and how it can translate back into your organisation.
John has been a CEO in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and is the Executive Director of Sport at Loughborough University. His passion for sport and leadership, blended with his experience in creating and leading high performing teams is unique.
The foundation for his leadership values and skills were set and developed in the army, having been trained to lead teams in high-pressure environments at the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy. Fuelled by an unrelenting passion for clear and effective leadership and motivated by ethical responsibility, courage and professionalism, John developed his own very personal style of leading.
When his army career ended, John moved into the corporate world, before he enjoyed an outstanding career as a professional rugby player achieving international honours. After his playing career, he turned his hand to coaching and achieved the highest accolade for a British club coach by winning the European Cup with Northampton Saints. He then became Executive Director on the Saints Board during a period of unprecedented growth, and served on the England Rugby Board during the successful world cup campaign of 2003. It was no surprise that John’s talents were called upon to drive through a change and modernisation programme as CEO of the Rugby Football Union – a challenge that became controversial and ended in his departure from the post after only a year, but with his dignity and professional pride intact.
Headhunted by UK Sport, John took up post as CEO the day before London won the 2012 Olympic bid – and this promising start was sustained as he embarked on developing the UK’s high performance sport system, which he led for a six-year period of unprecedented success through the Beijing and London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Post-London 2012, with the Olympic legacy in place and an obligation to continue inspiring a generation, John took up his post as Group Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust. He has also succeeded Steve Cram as Chairman of the English Institute of Sport, an organisation described as ‘the team behind the team’, which delivers a range of performance impacting solutions to over 40 Olympic and Paralympic sports and some non-Olympic sports.
Combining his two passions - leadership and sport – John founded Unforgiving Minute, a niche consultancy with unique leadership development expertise.
Always in high demand, John uses his ability to explore often complex scenarios and systems and distill them down into easily understandable and transferable learning for leaders and organisations wanting to develop their own high performing teams and cultures.