Phenomenal Development Initiatives of the Future Female Leaders in Football

Jacqueline Mueller, Ph.D., catches us up on her globe-hopping 2022, sharing insights into two female-specific development programs and highlighting the versatility of DISC Profiling in sport.
Mim Haigh
Sports Writer – Athlete Assessments

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When looking back on 2022 in the world of sport, now or in five years time, we would likely be hard pressed to find someone who couldn’t recall the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. But while globally it was a massive year for football (soccer), it was arguably an even bigger year for renowned leadership expert, Jacqueline Mueller Ph.D. who delivered various industry first programs, including an all-female edition of Future Leaders in Football and a development program for the newly formed Saudi Arabia Women’s National Football Team.

When we caught up with the international Consultant and Lecturer at Loughborough University London, we were keen to learn more about the pivotal role she played in delivering these diverse women-only development programs throughout the year in the Middle East.

While Jacky resides in the United Kingdom, she is often called to deliver programs across the globe and holds close partnerships with the German Sport University Cologne and German Football Association (DFB).

The partnership with the DFB enabled her to deliver two special all-female editions of the Future Leaders (FLF) workshop, which were held in March in Jordan, and in November in Qatar in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup. Future Leaders in Football is global initiative at the intersection of leadership and social development. The workshop is jointly organized and delivered by the DFB, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), as well as the Sport for Development Programme of the German Development Cooperation (GIZ). The workshop is financially supported by UEAFA Assist and Volkswagen (VW) with Loughborough University London being its academic partner. The two female only editions of the FLF specifically focused on young leaders who are growing into leadership positions and included two cohorts of over 45 women from the MENA region including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, Iraq, Palestine, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, Germany, Syria, and Jordan

Jacky shared some insight into the importance of this initiative, 

“There is an understanding that female leaders in general, and particularly those from the MENA region, have to overcome more challenges to occupy leadership positions, especially in sport. We wanted to give these women the leadership skills and tools they need to tackle those industry specific obstacles and cultural challenges in a more confident way.” 

FLF Qatar
FLF Qatar

The intensive five-day leadership program was designed to provide the next generation of female leaders with a platform for developing the skills and networks needed to improve the trajectory of their careers. Included in the workshops were a variety of theoretical and practical sessions on sport for development, leadership, gender empowerment, culture, sustainability, and ethics.

The Jordan Football Association highlighted in their statement about the program that as women make up 50% of the global population and football is a product of this community, it is the responsibility of organizations like theirs to ensure that this 50% is represented in football as well, not just at the leadership level, but throughout the entire structure.
Elaborating on her delivery of the program, Jacky highlighted that self-awareness and reflection are critical foundations for personal development. Accordingly, Jacky created workshops to enhance each individual’s understanding of themselves and the unique strengths they possess as a leader. As part of the program introduction, Jacky first defined the concept of leadership, before moving into reflective sessions which saw participants begin to understand the ways they preferred to act and how their style of leadership could impact themselves and others.
FLF Jacky Mueller

Each participant completed an Athlete Assessments Sport ManagerDISC Profile, which is tailored to reflect individual preferences and situations ‘off the field’. Their unique report outlined their array of preferred behaviors (strengths), including their style of communicating, way of approaching tasks, and how they like to build relationships with the people around them.

Notably, the reports also highlight the importance of adaptability in any pursuit of performance. Each Athlete Assessments DISC Profile providing insight into the principles an individual needs to be successful in any chosen endeavor. While a DISC Profile often confirms or enhances our understanding of self, they also uncover unseen strengths or blind spots in our awareness.

Jacky explained further,

“A lot of the participants have traditionally not had many opportunities to speak up, so they were lacking in confidence and struggling with public speaking, being assertive, and asking for what they needed. They believed because they were quiet or shy, they could never be leaders.”

“Contrastingly, there were also women who were used to fighting to overcome a lot of barriers, but they didn’t understand how this determined and directive behavior could be misunderstood by those they are trying to lead. We worked with both groups of women to ensure they understood how to use their capabilities to effectively get the best out of people.” 

As part of the DISC Profiling process, Jacky brought in four-time Olympian, three-time Olympic medalist, and Founder of Athlete Assessments, Bo Hanson, to deliver a session via video conference. Reinforcing Jacky’s approach, Bo ensured each participant could understand the impact of their individual profile, what it looks like under stress or pressure, how it shapes the way we interact with the people around us, and in turn how our actions can be received. Jacky explained how understanding our natural preference for handling a situation is the first step to becoming an effective and influential leader, as it presents us with the knowledge of when to stretch or adapt our behavior to get the best outcome from a situation or person.

Together, Bo and Jacky highlighted the spread of the profiles amongst the group to demonstrate how their behavioral approaches are different or similar to one another.

Jacky added,

“Bo’s online sessions are always regarded highly. He has a great ability to engage with participants even in a digital space. We try to do as much as we can in person, but it never really feels like Bo is not in the room!” 

Jacky elaborated on the overall success of the program,

“It was fantastic to see the women learn from each other and be a tremendous source of support for one another. Ultimately, a key component of the workshops is for women to know other women working in their area. Building networks is an absolutely essential element of success in any role.” 

Given her ability to design and deliver programs that address the development needs of diverse groups of participants, it is unsurprising that Jacky was contacted by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation to create a program for their National Women’s Team.

The development of the Saudi Arabia National Women’s Football team is part of a larger strategy to promote women’s sports, particularly football, in Saudi Arabia. Previously, female athletes have not had a league of their own, but the current goal for this team is to achieve a FIFA level ranking.

The foundations of this program were similar to the structure of Future Leaders in Football, focusing heavily on developing self-awareness and reflection with the use of Athlete Assessments’ DISC Profiles. Jacky primarily used these tools as a foundation for building relationships, awareness of others, and coming together as a cohesive unit. As she explained,

“There is a big push to professionalize the development of the squad and while the players are technically excellent, they’re not used to a team environment, as they don’t come from an academy or college sport system. We were building these skills from the ground up, so it was critical for players and coaches to understand their own DISC Profile and its implications, but also to understand the unique strength that every person brings to the team.” 

In preparation for this program, one of the most vital initiatives undertaken saw Jacky and the Saudi Arabia Football Federation collaborate to translate Athlete Assessments’ AthleteDISC and CoachDISC surveys into Arabic. This ensured the most accurate responses could be selected by the participants when completing the online surveys, providing the best opportunity for meaningful development. 

Providing the survey in their primary language allowed for assurance of profile accuracy, while having the English report meant that Jacky could still effectively debrief each participant’s profile and collectively share the group’s results, explaining how their spread of DISC styles contribute to their unique team dynamic. She added,

“We looked at the team’s natural styles and then worked to identify where we may each need to adapt or stretch to cover gaps or limitations in styles amongst the group.” 

During this process, the group also evaluated their similarities and differences, noting where natural compatibilities fall and conflict could exist. Jacky emphasized that knowing your own tendencies and those of your teammates prevents you from attributing ineffective behavior, and instead cater to each team member’s natural preferences.

Once the team understood the implications of their own styles and how it would play out on and off the field, Jacky also took the time to develop the team’s awareness around how to formulate pressure coping strategies relative to their style. She highlighted how understanding each other is also a critical factor for team awareness and consequently, performance.

Jacky’s work with women in sport over the last year is a fantastic example of the vast application of DISC and how it can be utilized effectively for individual, leadership, and team development, as well as its resonance across cultures and with those at different stages in their sporting career.

Jacky has many exciting things on the horizon for 2023 and we look forward to sharing further updates as her industry leading programs continue to be recognized and championed across the globe.

Dr. Jacqueline Mueller Headshot

Biography for Dr. Jacqueline Mueller

Dr. Jacqueline Mueller is a Sport Management Lecturer at Loughborough University London, where she is the module leader for Leadership, Diversity, and Change. As a highly sought-after leadership consultant, Jacky designs and delivers the Future Leaders in Football workshop for the German Football Association which offers players, coaches, administrators, and managers, within football federations the support they need to develop and refine their leadership skills. In 2022, Jacky together with Haneen Khateeb, convened two all-female editions of this program, with an attendance of over 45 women and girls from MENA regions. As a leadership consultant, Jacky was also brought on board by Monika Staab, Head Coach of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation to create and implement a workshop for their women’s national team. Jacky is a visiting lecturer at the German Sport University Cologne, where she delivers a series of executive lectures for the European Handball Manager programme in English and German. She is a certified leadership expert for the European Handball Federation (EHF), an elected board member of the European Association for Sport Management (EASM) and an advisory board member for WaveMakers. Jacky obtained her Ph.D. in Sport Business and Leadership from Loughborough University, London and her master’s degree in Sport Business Innovation, for which she received the Dean’s Award for Excellence. Jacky also has a BSc in Sport and Event Management from the University of Europe for Applied Sciences.  

Where to from here?

If you are looking for one comprehensive tool that enables you to develop self-awareness, leadership skills, or team cohesion in your team or group of people, look to Jacky’s demonstration of the versatility and applicability of Athlete Assessments’ DISC Profiles across all of these areas.

We pride ourselves on the exceptional quality of our profiling tools and the accessibility we are able to provide through our collaborations with clients to administer the survey in languages other than English. If you are interested in exploring these options or would like to discuss our programs and services further, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us!

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Bo Hanson

Senior Consultant & Director

Bo Hanson’s career within the sport and the business sector spans over 25 years, delivering leadership, management, and coach development. In addition to his own athletic career comprising of four Olympic appearances and including three Olympic medals, Bo has worked for many years with coaches and athletes from over 40 different sports across the globe. Bo was also the winner of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) 2023 Award for L&D Professional of the Year, for his dedication to L&D and transformational work across various industries.

After a successful career in sport including four Olympics and three Olympic Medals, Bo co-founded and developed Athlete Assessments in 2007. Bo now focuses on working with clients to achieve their own success on and off ‘the field’, and has attained an unmatched track-record in doing exactly this.

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Now, watch us interrupt him for a round of quick fire questions.