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June 3, 2010

Sports and Musicals: Lessons in Leadership Effectiveness

Eric Jacobson, the man behind the curtain at the Kansas City Leadership Examiner and his own namesake blog, Eric Jacobson on Management and Leadership, recently wrote a two-part series on developing leadership skills through team sports. In the first part, "How Playing Team Sports Builds Better Business Leaders," he points out a coach's responsibility to effectively link the what and how of what s/he's teaching the athlete and how those lessons can be applied beyond the sporting experience. In other words, the coach needs to be conscious of his/her role in converting the sports experience into a leadership learning opportunity.

Clearly the parallels between team sports and our roles as leaders are endless. And as Eric points out in his second article, there are a plethora of other team and group situations-such as social clubs, scouting and book clubs-that can also help to make an individual a better leader.

As someone whose own experience was so much more about musicals than sports, I bring yet another perspective to the conversation, so I thought I'd take the time to add my two cents on the other metaphorical leadership lessons I've learned along the way.
  • My high school musical director always said, "There are no small parts; just small actors."
  • You might have heard the saying, "There's no "I" in team." I believe it was Michael Jordan who said, "But there is in win."
  • The most effective leaders know there's a need to balance the focus on themselves as leaders and individuals with the needs of their teams.
  • I firmly believe that when we win, we win together.
  • Getting there: I often need to coach young people about the truism that you need to "Play to Win." You need to find and raise your voice as a leader, even as a young and aspiring one. You need to participate in discussions, ask questions, share your thoughts. That's how you learn, grow and achieve results.
  • To get what you want, you need to help others get what they want.
  • You need to understand the outcome the individual or group needs to accomplish, and help be part of the solution.
  • Learn to share the spotlight, and to share appreciation with others (it's free and when done genuinely, it's incredibly meaningful).
  • Learn from your mistakes and apply them to new situations so you don't make the same mistake again.
    Finally, you need to practice the new skills you're learning.
  • As my high school music teacher taught me. It's not "practice makes perfect.". It's "perfect practice makes perfect."

When followed, these lessons, quotes and takeaways truly set the stage for greatness in any sport or at work.

Have Eric and I missed an important leadership lesson that you've gained through your own team experiences? I'd love to hear your insights.


- David Grossman



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