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Leadership lessons from professional sport

It can be useful for those in leadership positions in business to benchmark themselves against professional sports people (particularly those in team sports), and see whether they can glean any useful insights to help them ‘up their game’.

Consider the following:

  1. Self-belief and goals. Professional sports people have self-belief and excel at setting measurable goals against which to benchmark their performance. Do you have clear performance targets and belief in your ability to achieve your goals?
  2. Analytics. The best sports teams now collect lots of data on team performance, and the performance of competitors, to inform overall strategy and tactics. Is your decision making informed by objective analysis?
  3. Attention to detail. Those at the top in sport recognise that success is determined by fine margins and that those who win pay attention to detail. Do you ‘sweat the small stuff’?
  4. Accountability. Top sports people don’t make excuses, they hold themselves accountable for their performance both ‘on and off the field’.
  5. Dedication and hard work. Top sport people are disciplined and know that success is 90% determination and 10% inspiration. While natural talent is important, it it rarely the key differentiator.
  6. Role models. All top athletes have great coaches and mentors. If you are inexperienced or new to a team watch how the best perform. What are their secrets to success ? Seek out the wisdom and experience of those who have excelled in your chosen ‘sport’.
  7. Team spirit. Business is a team sport, all players must be aligned and equally committed to the achievement of the same vision. Peer pressure in a sports team and a desire ‘not to let the team down’ can be powerful sources of motivation. Do members of your team hold each other accountable? Will you support a team member who is going through a rough patch?
  8. Dealing with disappointment. Even the best teams in sport lose on occasion and the team has to be able to deal maturely with disappointments. Also, you need to be able to handle not being selected for the team (passed over for ‘promotion’ is a business equivalent). How resilient are you, do you bounce back from disappointment?
  9. Post match reviews. Do you and your team give adequate attention to learning the lessons from  wins and losses?
  10. Success. All great teams celebrate success. Winning ways, tend to be habitual so recognising success can inspire future success. Memories of past glories can be a  great emotional resource to draw on when the going gets tough.




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