Leadership Lessons from Sports Fields

Whether you are building a sports team or a company, author Rosabeth Moss Kanter recommends culling lessons from the sporting arena. In a Harvard Business Review blog,  Kantar turns her gaze to both World Cup Soccer action and the cricket field.

What can we learn from the playing field? Kantar writes: “The leadership culture surrounding teams shapes outcomes. Whether in the boardroom, locker room, or living room, success is derived from not just the talents of individuals but the context surrounding them.”

If you caught any World Cup coverage this past summer, you may have witnessed the French team’s “emotional meltdown,” or the German team’s “discipline.”  Nigeria faltered while its country’s soccer federation suffered a corruption investigation. All of these examples point to the culture and leadership surrounding each soccer team.

Kanter uses this lens in the book Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End. For this book, she researched how cricket teams in various countries rose and declined based on both culture and leadership practices. In this blog, she writes how the Australian Cricket Board’s (now Cricket Australia) fostered leadership and innovation, building a “winning national team.” Key tactics, which can be used in both business and on the field, included:

  • Letting players mature and grow instead of discarding them, creating a solid team.
  • Founding a youth cricket academy to invest in younger athletes.
  • Offering scholarships for this academy for talent programs and camps.
  • As winning made the sport more popular, the money from attendance was used to enliven World Series matches, and corporate sponsorship began.
  • Good press made cricket even more popular.

The next time you watch your favorite sport team in action, think about why these players are successful or, alternatively, why your team is in the middle of a losing streak. And whether you are a leader on a field or at a company, use the lessons from this article and from your viewing time in your life.

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