Leadership is a Team Sport

I find myself turning into one of those dads who brag on their kids. All four of them have strengths and things they’re brilliant at. But Lincoln, my 7-year old, is the athlete of the bunch. He’s fast, athletic, and is a winner (he gets it from his mom). He’s usually the smallest kid on the field, but he doesn’t know it. And he usually goes after the biggest kid on the field. He has that quarterback personality that people are drawn to and he simply believes he can’t lose and that he shouldn’t lose. It’s just hard-wired in him.

Don’t worry I’m not that delusional dad who is set on his kid being a D-1 athlete. But I am glad he’s playing team sports. Because leadership is a team sport, and he’s learning some incredible leadership lessons at a young age that will serve him well the rest of his life.

Most of us adults who are leading would do well to remind ourselves of some of those leadership lessons we can pick up from playing team sports.

1. Learn to Lose

Unless you live a very, very, very blessed life you’re probably going to experience some losses in life. Learning to lose gracefully and bounce back from a loss is a key to team sports. It’s one thing to be beat and lose, it’s a completely other thing to adopt a losers mindset.

2. Learn to Win

The point of playing the game is to win (forget all that don’t keep score and everybody gets a trophy stuff). If it’s worth playing, it’s worth winning. You want your team to adopt a winning mindset and get in the habit of winning. Let’s face it losing isn’t fun. People want to be a part of a winning team. But there’s a reason coaches tell players to, “Act like you’ve been there.” Pride will destroy a team.

3. Authority

At some point every talented player, if they’re going to be a great player, has to learn to submit to the authority of the coach. That it’s not their team, that they’re not running practices, making decisions, or calling the plays. Coach is. The faster everyone realizes who’s in charge and submits to his or her authority the faster the team can get on with winning.

4. Coaching

World-class athletes need coaching. In fact one of the reasons that they’re world-class athletes is because they recognize that they need coaching. They know how to receive, embrace, and learn from their coaches. Even though they’re at the top of the game, the pinnacle of their industry, they’re literally life-long learners when it comes to their craft.

5. Teamwork

You can go fast alone, but you can go far together. When it comes to team sports, mediocre players that have a great team mindset will always beat great players that have a mediocre team mindset. Relationships are key to any winning team. Winning teams don’t win alone they win together. They work hard at the relational integrity of the team. It leads to trust. And a talented team that trusts each other can go far together.

6. Hard Work

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. You want to play to win you have to practice to win. Winning isn’t easy. The old adage still rings true today, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

7. Playing Position

Not everybody can play every position on the field. Each position takes a certain mindset, skillset, and body type. When you play to each player’s strength by placing each player in the right position, and when they stay in position, the team has a chance to win.

8. Team First

When you play a team sport you quickly realize that while there may be many players on the field, only one player can have the ball at any given time. And if you want to win, you’ve got to learn to put the team before yourself.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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