I enjoy watching most major sports. And so for sports fans like me, 2016 was a fun and entertaining year.
History was made, and some of the greatest athletes of our time hung up their spikes, cleats, and goggles.
It was also a year when sports gave us a few great leadership lessons.
What leadership lessons did sports teach us in 2016? Here are a few:
- When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, we learned that history can be made when we refuse to run from challenges. They had 108 years of disappointment. They had every reason to run from the challenge. But Theo Epstein and the rest of the organization were motivated by the challenge. So they ran toward the task of building a championship team, not away from it. And the result—history.
- When the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship, we learned that the importance of resilience. The Cavs were down 3 to 1 against the Golden State Warriors. Few gave them any shot of winning. But they didn’t give up, and made history by being the first NBA team to overcome such a deficit.
- When Villanova University won the NCAA Basketball Tournament, we learned that teamwork really matters. Villanova didn’t have several first round NBA draft picks on the court when they won. They just had a team. And the team worked together well, focusing on their strengths and strategy. When Villanova won, it was not about a him but a them.
- When the University of Alabama won the NCAA National Championship in football, we learned that consistent success requires consistent discipline. Coach Nick Saban is known for his constant attention to the details. Execution of the details is a habit for him. This trickles down to the players and onto the field.
- When Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl, we learned that leaders need to embrace humility and gratefulness. Both before and after the Super Bowl, Manning consistently used words of humility and thankfulness when discussing the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. Impacted by injuries and age, Manning knew he needed the rest of the team to carry most of the load. He frequently redirected the attention away from himself and toward the rest of the team. Without question, this only increased his teammates desire to win one more game for their leader and quarterback.
- When Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps competed in their last Olympics, we learned that eventually, our role, as leader, will end. Even now, we should consider the type of legacy we are leaving behind us. Did we steward our team members well? Did we put others first? Did we treat others as we would want to be treated? Were we the type of leader that we would like to follow?
This year, sports provided us with some great lessons in leadership. Take on challenges. Be resilient. Teamwork really matters. Be disciplined. Pursue humility and gratefulness. And consider the legacy you are leaving.