Leaders: Stepping Up Your Game? Learn From Winners!

Fosbury Flop

I help organizations improve their “game,” and I love my job. In fact, my hobby is reading and learning about how innovative organizations are stepping up their games all the time.

It’s like I am like a sports fanatic working as a coach in his favorite sport.

On Sports and Leadership

Speaking of sports, I know we hear many analogies linking winning teams of athletes to thriving organizations. There are good reasons for that.

Competition and passion to excel drive great athletes: They work hard to take their performance to higher levels. Outside of sports, there are fewer public scoreboards and standings, but successful organizations must master many things like:

  • Strategy
  • Strategy execution
  • Adapting to change
  • Operational excellence
  • Never-ending improvement

Q & A

So here is the question that matters:

“How can leaders face the daunting task of keeping up on it all?

Well, here are some of the answers from the lessons from winning athletes and teams that have done what it takes to reach the highest pinnacles of success.

  • Learn from the best practices of others

High jumpers who never learned from the “Fosbury flop” are at a competitive disadvantage. They won’t be able to meet the challenge of a literal raised bar. Dick Fosbury’s awkward-looking technique won him the gold medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics and has been a standard ever since.

  • Adapt, don’t copy, practices that build on your strengths

Copying is OK if you want to be “as good as,” not if you want to win. Your team may have different strengths. Use them for competitive advantage. Consider the stunning basketball upset that Argentina dealt the American Dream team in the 2004 Olympics. They did it with better team fundamentals practiced by the NBA and college teams for decades.

  • Don’t just rely on one super “athlete” in a team sport

When the competition is tough, you can’t win without the passion and skills of all the players. One great but self-absorbed player will not take you all the way. Winning over the long haul requires teamwork. Consider LeBron James and the Miami Heat in this year’s NBA championship. James was invaluable getting to the championship, but the superior teamwork of the Dallas Mavericks led to final victory.

  • Use Coaches

The best athletes in the world have coaches. They know that as good as they are, they need outside perspectives and expert advice. They work with someone who can push them to their higher selves and see things they miss.

A few immortals: John Wooden. Vince Lombardi. Bela Karolyi. Phil Jackson. Joe Paterno.

  • Get “in the zone”  

Everyone on the team needs to be focused, and in the game. In teamwork sessions, everyone should be absorbed in moving the ball forward, not thinking about his or her own agenda or paying attention to that ever-present smartphone. In sports and other activities there is a mental state called “flow.” It describes a state where people are immersed in a feeling of full involvement, harnessing positive energy to reach top performance.

  • Take time out to celebrate wins as a team

Then get ready to do even better the next day. Your competition has already watched your game tape and are working on ways to beat you.

I could go on… but I’m more interested in your own powerful analogies. What’s your favorite lesson from outside your organization’s discipline?


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Jerry Runser

Jerry Runser is a senior consultant at McArdle Ramerman
He designs strategies for leaders to achieve Operational & Performance Excellence
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web  | Skype: jerry.runser 

Image Sources: dvokrapka.com

L2L Contributing Author