Leadership Lessons From the Sports Field  10/27/2020

Most of us head to the golf or tennis course to get away from work, but in my decades of experience on greens around the world – both for business as well as leisure – I’ve found that there are a lot of valuable lessons from the game that translate to the boardroom or business meetings. 

Whichever sport you play, there’s a significant part of the game that’s all about mindset. I’m sure you can see the overlap between golf and business in this sense – it’s all about psyching yourself up, getting your head right and strategizing before setting foot on the course or in the boardroom. 

From established retailers to emerging brands, person needs certain skills in order to get the job done. Here are some leadership and management skills that sports teach us that can be applied to our day-to-day business. 

How to Handle Pressure 
High-pressure situations happen frequently in both sports and business. Whether it’s match point or a sales pitch, pressure is pressure. If you choke on the field, you run the risk of losing the game. If you choke in business, you could lose sales and marketshare. The key is learning how to center yourself and dig deep on the field to push through those moments is an invaluable skill that will serve you well in the workplace too. 

In those high-pressure situations, it can be hard to center yourself in the moment. You can’t just step off to the side and do some yoga poses, whether you’re on the golf course or in a business meeting. What you can do is take a metaphorical step backwards, assess the bigger picture, and consider your next move. A little deep breathing works wonders too (and it’s not as conspicuous as yoga).

Everyone will have a different trick for reframing their mind in the moment. Try a few things until you find what really works for you. Nobody pushes through pressure with the view of just surviving. We push through to win, and that mindset is one that cultivates success in both business and sport.

Communication Is Key 
Team sports would fall apart quickly if nobody communicated about the game plan. The same is true for business. Your employees don’t need to know all the ins and outs of the business plan. But they do need to know their role and how best to do it, and the only way they’ll know that is if it’s communicated to them. 

This is especially important in the retail space as trends shift even more towards online shopping. The chain from retailer to consumer needs to be as smooth as possible, and effective communication facilitates that. 

If retail was a sport, it would be a strategic sport. There are plenty of moving parts, and you need to have the right mindset in order to thrive. But the most crucial component of endurance sports is preparation. 

A pro golfer wouldn’t go into a match without having done a bit of research on the course. Knowing where to expect bunkers and bodies of water makes it easier to plot an effective strategy. Similarly, when a supplier is preparing for a buyer meeting, it’s imperative that they do their homework beforehand. This could involve doing research, visiting stores, and finding gaps in assortments that they can help fill. 

On the other side of the coin, buyers need to do their research on vendors so they can ask better questions and make more productive use of the allotted time in the meeting. 

Handling Success & Failure 
Not everything will go your way, both in sports and in business. The mark of a great business person (and sportsperson) is being able to handle both success and failure with aplomb, and move forward from both having learned something. 

Nobody likes a sore loser or an arrogant winner. Gracious winners and losers garner the respect of their peers and teammates, and respect is a prize in both sports and business. Even more importantly, every sportsperson knows that a loss is simply an opportunity to learn. The same is true when it comes to your brand - every struggle paves the way towards something greater. Celebrate wins and learn from losses as a team. This is an area that can strengthen teams immensely. 

Business is hard. Competition is rife. You’ll likely have moments when you want to throw in the towel. These moments are the ones where your commitment is tested. There would be no great sportsmen and women if each one stopped playing when they failed, or when their sport was difficult. 

Whether you’re a new brand still finding your feet or a seasoned retail buyer, commitment is something you’ll need to reaffirm on a daily basis. 

Next time you’re gearing up for a big drive or preparing to take that shot at the goal, remember that everything that happens on the field can be leveraged into a business lesson. Keep playing at your highest level -- the more you play, the more opportunity you have to improve, both in your chosen sport and in your career.


Editor's note: Jordan Fuller's website, Golf Influence, provides tips on how to up your game on the greens!


Jordan Fuller

Golf Expert & Coach

Jordan Fuller has been golfing and doing business for decades, with the two overlappings in many cases. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska, but has been fortunate enough to play courses all over the United States with high-powered businessmen. Jordan shares his love for all things golf-related things at Golf Influence.

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