Why Athletes And Business Leaders Are Really Not That Different

Being an elite athlete means having to face intense competition, leading by the smallest margins, establishing short and long term strategies, applying hard work and determination, working with team mates and recovering from failures and setbacks, all in an effort to achieve your goals and targets. Sound incredibly familiar?

Success in sports and business alike is determined by your ability to commit, perform and continually improve to the next level. Achievements this year will set newer, higher goals for next year, creating a relentless demand for you to deliver. So what can business leaders learn from elite athletes?

Athletes are made, not born

While athletes have to be gifted with a few natural abilities such as coordination, flexibility and physical fitness, just like business leaders need to have people skills and strategic thinking, the real key to excellence in either field is the development of mental toughness and unwavering focus. Through this, both athletes and leaders in business can thrive in the most pressure filled situations, stay on track among a sea of distractions and maintain their belief in themselves in the most difficult of circumstances.

Getting to the top is easier than staying there

The very best athletes, just like the very best employees, get to the top with consistently high performance, careful planning and the achievement of many smaller goals along the way. However, as difficult as it is to get to the top, staying there is considerably harder. Both business leaders and elite athletes face enormous expectations, are exposed and vulnerable in the limelight and are often looked at to set examples for colleagues and those below them. Sustained success in this environment requires a resilient mindset and an ability to constantly reinvent yourself in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Teamwork is crucial to success

 “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships” – Michael Jordan.

It’s easy to note the importance of teamwork when it comes to sport. Yet, many fail to understand the need for excellent teamwork is vital for a business to succeed as well. A good team knows its goals and every member coordinates and cooperates to unify their efforts and produce quality output. In addition, good teamwork reduces risk through an equal distribution of work as well as the goodwill and understanding of members to help where they can. To be a successful business professional, know your team well and ensure everyone understands their role and your role. Become the coach everyone wants to lead their team.

Take time to celebrate

Elite athletes work hard, but they also play hard. Hard work and commitment should be rewarded, so regardless of the pressure your business faces, don’t forget to celebrate the victories, no matter how small they are. These celebrations serve as a reminder to why you stay committed and can often inject you with a boost of enthusiasm to strive forward.

There is much to learn in business from top athletes and by noting the parallels between both worlds you can better drive yourself and your organisation to victory.

I would love to hear what successes you have had as a leader by applying what you have learned in sport to your role in business and as a leader.


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