Leadership Lessons from the World of Sports

The Simple Things In Life are often the Most Memorable

Here is a handful of swing thoughts you can put to work immediately … and with powerful results.

Along the way, enjoy some of the priceless quotes from one of baseball’s great, the Yankees’ Yogi Berra.

“I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.”


Yes, I know, you’re disappointed this week that I’m not talking about Newton’s Third Law of Motion or The Key to Understanding Quantum Physics … my brain needs a rest. Besides, I’m still straining with every molecule in my body to understand what Newton’s talking about.

When in doubt ... SPORTS!

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

Some think that sports in this country have become nothing but a glutinous conundrum of money, big egos and scandals.

Yet, sports are deeply embedded in our culture … full of romance, excitement and heroes, leavened with uniquely valuable lessons we can apply on our leadership journey.

Let me share with you 4 Powerful Sports Metaphors that will help you become a More Effective Leader.

1. You can't swing at every pitch.

In baseball, you get four balls for a free pass to first base, three strikes to return to the dugout … and it only takes a .300 batting average to get into the Hall of Fame.

In our daily business endeavors, we often face very difficult choices, and sometimes they arrive like a 100-mile-an-hour curve ball.

If you’re not ready for that pitch, better to let it pass, recalibrate your readiness and look at the next one.

Sometimes, the pitch appears headed for the plate like a beguiling temptress, but at the last moment, a knuckleball dives into the ground and we miss it completely.

Some days, all we can do is strike out.

Yet, we live to fight another day and marshal our resources to focus on those opportunities we can exploit to our greatest advantage.

"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours."

2. Don't be a ball hog.

Is this all about playing as a team?


Singing Kumbayah around the campfire?

No, it’s much more than that.

When you think about it, it’s really about finding the highest and best use of our resources and exploiting our strengths while avoiding our weaknesses.

We don’t pass to our weakest shooter just because he’s open, but we flip it to the fastest woman who’s cutting for the basket.

It means that we play with our head up, that we think openly and consciously about how to maximize our success at any moment in time.

“If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else.”

3. Keep your head down. Stay Focused.

Golf – that most inscrutable and insidious game – is where we hear this mantra more than anywhere.

Is it just so we don’t take our eye off the ball?

Or … is it because our head is the fulcrum of a smooth and balanced swing?

A little of both. Mostly, it’s about the discipline, focus and balance that’s required so that we are stable and comfortable at that critical moment when the club face meets the ball.

Like the batting stance, the tennis serve and the free-throw in basketball … stability and focus give us a measured approach to problem solving and frame our perspective in a way that will be most successful.

"Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical."

4. Follow through, a/k/a Follow Up

We do this everywhere, don’t we?

Or at least we should – in our golf swing, our baseball swing, catching and throwing, tennis, ad nauseam.

What’s behind all of this?

Mostly, it’s about control and completion, the assurance that our careful aim is rewarded because we’ve stayed on a perfect plane until the ball can no longer be affected by our movement.

Most days, I think follow-through is 90 percent of the battle and makes all the difference between success and failure.

How often have you started an initiative that you carefully developed … and watched as your surefire winner fizzled because there was no follow-through … no execution of the idea?

“I always thought that record would stand until it was broken."

Keep these swing thoughts in your head

  1. You can’t swing at every pitch.
  2. Don’t be a ball hog.
  3. Key your head down. Stay focused.
  4. Follow through, a/k/a Follow Up

Question: Did I leave out your favorite sports metaphor?

Let me know in the comments below and we’ll build on that to expand our discussion of these ideas and concepts.

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