Leadership in sport, to be applied in business

Here’s a great article published in 2009 by Jeff Pearlman. You can read the full text on Psychology Today. There are so many leadership examples in the text that I can hardly make a shortlist of them. Instead, I took an excerpt of what I believe to be one of the best advice a company can give its leadership. And a question: do you have leaders with these traits in your organization?

Along with talent, there are several attributes that all winning teams (and winning players) possess, according to Kimball and other sports psychologists.

Work Ethic: “If you have a player who is constantly working to improve, it’s the number one sign of a winner who’ll make winning contagious,” Kimball says. “The focus isn’t 100 percent on outcome, but on getting better and making the people around you better. If players see their star working his tail off, they’ll feel compelled to do the same.”

Humility: In a profession overstuffed with tattoo-covered, sneaker-endorsing, trash-talking, Humvee-driving athletes convinced they are God’s gift to humanity, those who rise above are often—if not always—well aware they will not always rise above. “Humility leads to an understanding that I’m not always the best, and that another person on any given day can win,” says Wade Rowatt, a social psychologist at Baylor University. “If you look at the best athletes, most display this sort of respect for opponents.” (…) “If you have a guy who sees himself as better than everyone else and feels as if he deserves special treatment, he’ll never inspire greatness. Just the opposite.”

A Love of Pressure: Though he had devoted his life to reaching baseball’s highest level, one former National League catcher (who requests anonymity) makes a staggering confession. “When the ball was popped up, I didn’t want it coming my way,” he says. “Let the first baseman take it, let the shortstop take it, let the pitcher take it—just not me. “That,” he says, “was the big difference between someone like myself and someone like a Brett Favre or Derek Jeter or Kobe Bryant. Those guys want the ball in crunch time.”

Self-motivation: For many teams and athletes, dominance can lead to complacency. As a result, true winners motivate from within. Sometimes this means convincing oneself, and one’s team, that tough times are imminent. “The underdog card is huge—absolutely huge. (…) I use it all the time with my players. I’ll tell them, ‘Nobody believes in us except us. The other team thinks they’re gonna kill us. The press gives us no attention. So let’s go out there and take it to ’em!’

Selflessness: This trait is “the most important of them all,” says Leonard Zaichkowsky, a professor of sports psychology at Boston University. “Athletes who can’t dial back their egos for the good of the team are only going to hurt things in the long run.”

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