Business and sports seem connected in a number of ways. They both involve strategy, tactics, planning, practice, and intense competition with the aim of winning.
Leaders in organizations seem particularly fond of sports analogies and terminology, and recently Psychology Today asked leaders about how their experiences in sports impacted their leadership style.
Here’s what they found:
There is ongoing evaluation of performance in sports and business. Just like athletes, leaders are measured by to stats in the form of key performance indicators, targets, quotas, market share, year-over-year growth, and the bottom line. Leaders and athletes also both participate on teams, so individual and team results are connected. If the individual does really well but the team doesn’t, the individual is not making the right impact.
Goals are a essential. Athletes often begin the season with a certain outcome in mind. Focusing on this goal can affect an athlete’s performance and motivation. Similarly, when leaders keep their eyes on a goal or outcome, they are more likely to take to achieve, or even surpass it. Both professional athletes and leaders are often incentivized for achieving certain goals, or even achieving more than established targets.
Just like an athletic team, the success of any corporate team depends on the interaction and collaboration of team members. An analogy I’ve often used with clients relates to rowing: A team can only go as fast as the slowest rower.
- Team Success
A successful athlete constantly works on developing and encouraging their teammates. Leaders can sometimes forget that if their team isn’t winning, they aren’t winning. A strong leader provides feedback and reinforces positive effort. By enabling team members to share in the leading — and by providing development opportunities for team members — they ensure their team’s success. Many athletes and leaders say they were impacted early in their careers by an effective mentor. Mentorship is a way of strengthening a team.
- Good Sportsmanship
All may be fair in love and war, but not on the field and definitely not in the office. Great athletes are fair players and own up to their missteps. And good leaders own up when their team falls short. Nobody likes a cheat and nobody likes a sore loser. By modeling honesty and taking personal responsibilities, great athletes and great leaders show the right way to win.
Question: How have your own experiences in sports impacted your leadership style? Do you see a downside to adapting sports concepts into business?