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What leadership skills can you learn from sports?

Posted by Neha De

February 17, 2022

Playing sports is not just an easy way to de-stress or get fit; research shows that it teaches people crucial life skills that help them become better leaders. According to an EY report, 4 in 5 female Fortune 500 executives had played competitive sports. 

The challenge for business leaders, as with sports, is convincing people to work together toward a larger purpose. This requires an array of skills that must be learned, and sports are a perfect training ground. In the words of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi: “Leaders aren’t born, they are made.”

Here are five leadership skills learned from playing sports that can help people become better business leaders: 

1. Teamwork – Teamwork is one of the most basic skills sports teaches players. As the saying goes, there is no “I” in teamwork. Players are motivated to do their best while helping others to reach their common end goal. Teamwork also calls for delegation of tasks, which is another essential skill that leaders need in order to succeed.

At the workplace, working with others and appreciating how different talents can contribute to a common goal are essential.

2. Self-discipline – Sports teaches players self-discipline as well as self understanding. Self discipline allows participants to figure out how to do the right things at the right time, every time.

Sports challenge every participant differently. At the same time, it allows the players to reflect on the task at hand, to identify their contributions to the team and to improve on an individual level. The same holds true for the workplace. Because just like sports, running a business can be quite unpredictable.

3. Integrity – Talent can only take a player so far. What is even more important than pure talent is having good sportsmanship.

Integrity does not always guarantee the desired outcome, and admitting to a mistake might seem counterproductive. However, when people are honest and work with integrity, they are able to use their mistakes to their advantage, whether in sports or business.

4. Communication – In both sports and business, teams work to achieve the same goal, and everything works better when each player (team member) knows exactly what their role is.

Effective communication skills are crucial for business leaders to motivate, identify and appreciate the great work their employees are doing.

5. Organizational and strategic management skills – Without the latter two essential skills, teamwork and communication cannot be effective. In any sport, coaches and players together need to come up with a game plan as well as winning strategies. They also need to come up with goals for all possible scenarios, including practice sessions, the main season, the off-season and so on.

In business, leaders too need to have proper (achievable) goals in place in addition to having strategies for achieving those goals.

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