Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. The New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Zdeno Chara from the Boston Bruins.
These are some of the most highly praised athletes in the world of sports. Their role of team captain speaks for itself. And they have one thing in common — they’re excellent leaders.
Some argue that leaders have a natural ability to delegate and guide people, but leadership is actually a learnable skill. In fact, learning how to be a good leader helps you find work in sports and build a sustainable career.
Here are four aspects of leadership you need to understand:
Captains like Duncan and Jeter weren’t necessarily born to lead. Your innate personality doesn’t make or break your chances of being an excellent leader.
For instance, many people assume introverts are not natural leaders, but some of the best leaders are introverted. Yahoo’s former CEO Marissa Mayer, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett are all introverts and have lead major corporations to success.
Introverted leaders tend to exhibit better listening skills and are much more focused than extroverts. However, the point isn’t who makes a better leader. The point is that everyone’s personality has positive traits that can be used in leadership.
You can even create new personality traits through personal development. According to a 2017 study published in PsyArXiv, which focused on 50,000 people over the course of several decades, people’s personalities undergo significant changes throughout the course of their life.
This is promising because you can adopt some of the best personality traits of leaders, including self-awareness, humility, authenticity, and curiosity.
One of the best ways to strengthen these traits is to connect with leaders who work in sports and build a rapport with them. Seek mentorship opportunities with professionals you respect and admire.
How can you lead your team down the field to score a touchdown if you don’t know how to clearly present passing routes and strategy? Bad communication is a thorn in the leader’s side.
Some of the best leaders in the sports world know how to motivate their teams and push them to achieve big goals, thanks to their excellent communication skills. However, being a great communicator requires more than just speaking.
You also need to be good at interpreting body language, actively listening, and writing. This seems daunting, but you can practice these skills in nearly every social situation you encounter.
Aside from day-to-day interactions, consider taking a public speaking class, enrolling in writing courses, and meeting new people at networking events.
As athletes know, you never get better at a new skill if you don’t practice. The more experience you have under your belt, the stronger you become. Their experience doesn’t just come from gamedays, and neither should yours.
Seek out learning opportunities outside of your work in sports where you can practice. For example, volunteering is not only fulfilling on a personal level. It also creates leadership opportunities. Look for charities where you can run a fundraiser or coordinate other events.
Also, consider creating a recreational sports team or starting a side hustle to learn self-leadership. Self-leadership is how you learn to influence yourself to achieve your goals. When you learn this, you can start to lead others.
Jeter was always calm and quietly confident. Never boastful or overly arrogant. Always a team player. This is important — finding the right level of confidence that doesn’t veer toward inflated self-worth and arrogance.
However, cultivating confidence is challenging for many people. It’s not simply a switch to turn in. It takes consistent effort.
One of the best tactics is practicing visualization. Michael Phelps is one of the best athletes in the world, and he described his visualization practices. He would spend several hours daily mentally rehearsing his wins, imagining the smell, the sights, the taste of the water. He even imagined what the spectator would see from the stands during his races.
By visualizing, you start to understand what accomplishment feels and looks like. Then, with focused attention on a task, you’re confident in fulfilling that vision.
Finding work in sports and building a career in a field you love is incredibly rewarding. Learning how to be a leader is a great first step in that direction.
What aspects of leadership do you want to focus on? Share in the comments!