Yesterday was the Annual Sports Day at my son's school. Watching the kids spill their guts out in their quest for glory only strengthened my long-held belief that the sport field is arguably the greatest business school on earth. It teaches children the 4 P's of leadership and grooms them to become effective leaders in their adult lives.
PREPARATION: Victory Lies In The Preparation. Whether in a business suit or a track suit, if one has to succeed, one has to be well-prepared. In sport, as in life, the journey to the victory podium takes hundreds of hours of dedicated and disciplined practice. Ask Usain Bolt how many days, weeks, months and years of sweat have gone into producing his sub-10 second "lightning bolts". Or for that matter, the amount of midnight oil burnt by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to rise from a non-descript fishing hamlet to become the President of India.
PERFORMANCE: Finally, it all boils down to performance! One can put in all the hard work in the world, but if one doesn't perform on D-Day, then one could become history rather than make history! Muhammed Ali, Pele, and Roger Federer wouldn't be legends if not for their consistently brilliant performances. Neither would Henry Ford and Jack Welch.
PEOPLE: The ability to work with people is one of the most important qualities a leader must possess. And sport is all about working with people - like the coach, trainer, team mates. Trust, faith, undertsanding, bonding and teamwork are words that are as relevant in a locker room as they are in a board room. First as a player/captain and then as a coach/manager, the iconic Franz Beckenbauer nurtured and motivated his team to become an all-conquering, demolition unit. So did Mahatma Gandhi inspire millions of people to take on the mighty British and win Independence without fighting a bloody war.
PERSEVERANCE: "I hate to lose more than I love to win", said Jimmy Connors, whose never-say-die attitude won him many more matches than his incredible two-handed backhand strokes. The competitive spirit of sport goads one to somehow try and struggle back on the feet rather than go down for the count. Not surprisingly, the greatest leaders through history have been those who never gave up even when all seemed hopelessly lost. 27 years in prison did not break Nelson Mandela's spirit to fight apartheid. He persevered. He won.
Next time you see a child playing sport, remember that it is actually attending the world's greatest business school.