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We’ve previously discussed how martial arts can aid in the fight for entrepreneurial success, but there are endless ways to apply the principles you learn in martial arts, and sports in general, to other aspects of life. One of the most obvious connections lies in sports’ ability to teach leadership qualities that follow participants into their respective careers.

Communication

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis

To be a leader, you must have the ability to speak and listen effectively. Just as important, though, is the ability to understand non-verbal methods of communication. In sports, and especially in BJJ, communication is key to developing a strategy and implementing it. Watching the opponent closely can also help you to understand what their next move may be and how you can counter it. In business, communication keeps a team strong by providing a space for efficiency, innovation, and progress. Leaders understand how essential communication is to success and will make sure that the communication within their team is strong.

Strategy

“In fair weather prepare for foul.” — Thomas Fuller

Sports teams have whiteboards to outline a game plan and so do most businesses. To develop a game plan in sports, a team must understand their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of their opponents. Research is necessary to understand the best course of action. However, on the field and in the office, small emergencies arise that throw the original plan out the window. A leader must be able to quickly evaluate the situation and issue a new strategy. Competitive sports teach how to create a last minute contingency plan when things go wrong, making leaders at work more effective for being able to think on their feet.  

Discipline

“To succeed one must be creative and persistent.” — John H. Johnson

Someone becomes a leader for many reasons, but a large part of it is the fact that they work very hard. In sports, a leader is often the person who logs the most hours of practice, doesn’t give up when the odds are stacked against them, and works to help their teammates become stronger players. To advance in a sport, those qualities must be demonstrated. To not give up and keep grinding is just as important in business.

Teamwork

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nader

In business, a group of people is always smarter than one person standing alone. In sports, while there may be players who are stronger than others, how that team works together is what gets the win. Effective teamwork is all about delegation and recognizing what someone does most successfully and trusting them to do it. In sports, players are delegated to certain positions based on their skills. The same can be said for business. A good leader recognizes individual strengths and delegates tasks to the most qualified and capable person. Sports teaches players how to recognize the strengths in others.

Don’t forget that you don’t always have to be top dog to be a great leader. Captains in competitive sports are usually good leaders, but they are also in their positions based on seniority. A leader is someone who works as hard as they can and inspires others to do the same. A team’s new recruit or the office intern can be a leader with the right set of qualities and work ethic.