What Can Business Leaders Learn from Competitive Athletes?

Small Business Lessons about Finance and Integrity

Business professionals can learn a vast amount of leadership skills from competitive athletes. There are powerful similarities between elite athletes and business leaders; both are hard-working, dedicated, and persevere through challenges to become better than they were the previous day. Business leaders and athletes both strive for goals, work hard for marginal gains, and endure pressures such as time constraints and competition.

It’s often debated whether athletes are born or made. While elite athletes may be born with specific skillsets to help achieve their greatness (such as agility, coordination, and flexibility), this alone cannot lift someone to become a superstar. Fostering their individual talents through drive and determination are also needed to gain the desired results.

To sustain excellence, professionals must plan short-term and long-term strategies. Business leaders and athletes must continuously improve their performance to ‘get to the next level’ and achieve success, however they define the term.

Learning Business Discipline from Martial Arts

The business world has become increasingly competitive and the pressure of being a leader in your field is more of a challenge today than ever before. Many athletes follow principles or values that guide them through both their sport and everyday life to remain focused on accomplishing their goals.

Martial Artists, particularly those who practice Shotokan Karate, follow 5 guiding principles to remain focused. These guiding principles can easily apply to business leaders. They include:

1. Character

Martial Arts: Strive for completion or seek perfection of one’s character.

Business: Developing one’s character or positive customer perception creates industry leaders.

2. Etiquette

Martial Arts: Respect others.

Business: Respect colleagues, customers, and competition to gain respect.

3. Sincerity

Martial Arts: Be faithful and protect the way of the truth.

Business: Remain honest and sincere to one’s goals and targets.

4. Effort

Martial Arts: Endeavour to foster the spirit of effort.

Business: Dedication to targets develops positivity and improved results.

5. Self-Control

Martial Arts: Guard against impetuous courage.

Business: Focus on one’s successes and improve self-control, a key to emotional intelligence.

Learning through Coaching, Mentorship, and External Expertise

Athletic talents can only carry a professional so far. Often times, these people require constant coaching and mentorship along the way to keep improving. Accessing external expertise is not a sign of weakness, rather it helps people access new ways of thinking or training that would not be available otherwise.

External sports expertise includes:

  • Mind psychologists for game strategy;
  • Strength & Conditioning Coaches / Endurance trainers to increase stamina; and
  • Nutritionists to fuel their body to achieve next level growth.

Similarly, businesses can go beyond their daily operations to achieve heightened success. In order to remain relevant or achieve growth, businesses must invest in their future, determine goals, and continuously re-evaluate growth strategies to lead their competition.

External business expertise includes:

External resources enable business leaders to seek the opinions, strategies, and tools of experts. Companies should always consider seeking the consultation of professionals if the team lacks internal resources to achieve success. Even if internal resources are available, consulting with professionals will help you reach new heights.

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