Watching ‘Cheer’ Will Make You a Better Leader
As cheerleading coaches like Monica Aldama know, mentorship isn’t about being nice
The new Netflix docuseries Cheer, which follows Navarro College’s cheerleading squad in pursuit of its 14th National Championship, has become an instant hit for the same reason many docuseries do: Real life makes for good drama. Add in extreme athletic competition, heartbreaking backstories, actual body-breaking injury, and the push-and-pull of finding an identity during young adulthood, and you’ve got something downright addicting.
But voyeurism isn’t the only reason to watch Cheer. Like other fans of the show, I’m kind of obsessed with Navarro head coach Monica Aldama, whose actions each episode can be read as a master class in getting results for those who look up to you. Cheer is a show that will entertain you, sure, but it also contains some powerful lessons on how to live a more determined, focused, and fulfilled life — and how to help others do the same.
Remember that you don’t have to be everyone’s friend
“I don’t have time to care about if I’ve hurt someone’s feelings,” Aldama says after making her final selections for Nationals (about half the team), leaving many sobbing in the hallways. Picking the strongest athletes is the only way to win. The only way to make the cut is to work harder.
When you’re a leader, teaching hard lessons and establishing boundaries are far more important than trying to make sure everyone likes you.
“I have a mentee who wants to be a public speaker,” says Dona Sarkar, who leads an advocacy team for Microsoft’s Power Platform. “She didn’t want to face any criticism or receive negative feedback. It would have been easier for me to tell her, ‘Don’t worry, no one will say anything bad. Just do it!’ But that is setting her up for failure. Instead, I told her that anytime you put yourself out there, there will be someone who does not agree with you.”
Establish expectations and follow through with consequences
In a key scene halfway through the series, we see Aldama standing over one of her cheerleaders, a male tumbler with a…