Top 8 Leadership Lessons You Won’t Learn in a Business School: Based on the World’s Football Experience

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Today, we are not going obsessive with terms and argue which football is a real football - the one called the American football in Europe or the one called soccer in the US. We're even not going to discuss which of these greatest sports on Earth is greater. Instead, we are going to combine the wisdom brought by their leaders and apply it to corporate and everyday life. So, here are eight lessons that make a real leader.

#1 Don’t Focus on Victories! Focus on What Brings You Ones

This is the lesson from Bill Walsh, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Stanford Cardinal football team head coach, every football fan in the US knows. What you might not know, however, is Walsh's attitude towards victories. He thought they could be a reason for an obstacle to the further success. When a team thinks they've achieved everything, they simply stop developing. To prevent it, Walsh advised thinking about what brought you to the top and how you can stay there as long as possible, not about the fact that you've done it!

#2 Build the Essence of the Team

Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City - the top European football clubs united by the figure of manager who works or used to work with them - Pep Guardiola. The outstanding success of these clubs is connected by the mass media with the aspect brought by Guardiola, so-called “team essence.” It incorporates both the mission of the team and its attitude towards the game. Each victory of these clubs has contributed to their team identity that makes them stand out from others. A lot of teams, both in sports and in the corporate world, want to win because they want to beat others. This is a big mistake, according to Guardiola. Those who crave a victory because this is who they are much more successful.

#3 Praise Teamwork, Not Individualism

Teamwork, team building, a team player… In the race for being unique and authentic, we have started to take these as buzzwords. We sometimes think that if we show our best side, as leaders, people will follow. They will form teams, and work for us - INDIVIDUALS. But New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick makes us come down to earth - in football and business, only the teamwork exercised from the very beginning can lead everyone to success. Each and every player has to fight for the mutual victory. Otherwise, no one will win. At least no one on your side.

#4 Value Brotherhood, Not Money

The lesson by Claudio Ranieri, a legendary football player, and a manager of several European clubs, who now works with Nantes, is useful in any sphere of life. In leadership, however, it may seem a little naive. But if you don't consider brotherhood superficially, you'll see the benefits of such relationships for the business. People who care about you will do everything they can for mutual success. The keyword is mutual, of course; after all, no one is perfect. The one who takes you for a rival, on the other hand, sees no point in cooperation. You, in turn, will do your best if you feel that the company you work for is like a family to you. The level of responsibility grows when your ultimate goal is not just your wealth, but something you achieve together.

#5 Make Personal Ambitions Work for the Team Benefit

This advice by Jose Mourinho, the Manchester United manager who used to work with Chelsea, Porto, Real Madrid, and many others famous clubs, kind of sums up the two lessons described previously. Mourinho neither contradicts the fact that each team player has his own ambitions and individuality nor opposes the importance for everybody to be a whole. He underlines that it is vital to think of what you can gain and how it can contribute to the mutual victory.

#6 Connect Today’s Efforts to Tomorrow’s Success

What can be more demotivating that working hours and hours each day with no obvious result? This is the case when visualizing the future success, praised so much in the modern society, simply doesn't work. It happens because when we think about ourselves in the future, our brain gets an image of the third person. We just don't feel the connection between us exhausted today and us successful in the future. Tom Landry, the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, found the solution for this problem - you need to build this connection in your brain and make each player on your team do the same. It is not that easy, of course. Psychologists and neurobiologists advise visualizing the whole process of the hard work, not just the result.

#7 You Should Teach, Not Just Manage

Vince Lombardi was not just a player and a coach. He took an executive position in the National Football League. No wonder this legendary man knew a lot about leadership. He drew a parallel between being a coach and being a teacher. Today, many people talk about it, but whether they really follow this pattern? The point is not just to tell your subordinates what to do, but to tell and show how to do it. Be an example and a mentor.

#8 Suit Up

There is nothing more superficial in the contemporary world than outfits. However, we still care about appearances and style. Just think of book covers (a truism that still works), fancy design of that hotel, a reliable and costly interface of this website, and of course the sheen of other’s suit. Nick Saban, one of the best-known coaches of the present, has always paid enough attention to the way he dresses. According to him, people will likely follow the one who seems to have a plan. And a good suit adds to such an impression.

Being a great leader is something you have to achieve yourself through hard work - day after day. But, of course, other people's may help you a lot if you learn your lessons well.

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Comment by Nina Porter on October 25, 2017 at 12:37pm

Very interesting information. It filled me with new forces and fresh ideas. Thank you a lot

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