Leadership: A Game of Two Halves?

The euphoria of this summer’s men’s football World Cup is just beginning to fade, only to be replaced with the excitement and anticipation that a new season brings. As a nation of football lovers, we delight in the highs and suffer the low blows that supporting your team can bring.

Those who aren’t quite so interested in the sport can often be heard quoting the well-known phrase, “it’s just a game.” They are of course right. It is just a game. But this game, and sport in general, has so much more to teach us.

Football games are big money and there is a huge amount of pressure on teams to perform at the highest level. We often talk about the marginal gains to be had in sport which makes the difference between winning and losing, as preached by Sir David Brailsford – Team Sky Principle, overseeing Geraint Thomas’ Tour de France victory. These marginal gains come from a number of areas but a good starting point is looking at how the team is set up and the environment they operate in. For example the meticulous preparation of the England Football team this summer demonstrated the leap forwards in performance compared to previous tournaments.

When we think about winning strategies we automatically think about strategy, tactics and physical preparation. All of these are important factors but there is much more to be said for the softer elements which can often be overlooked. Simple things like being more flexible with the players – allowing them to see family, use technology, be more open in press interviews. Being flexible and ultimately treating the players like adults enables managers to create a culture in which the team are comfortable and happy operating in.

As I inferred earlier there is a lot that can be learned from the world of sport, and the principles that I’ve just talked about in a sporting context are equally important in the business world. Business leaders need to strive to create and demonstrate those values and behaviours that induce positivity among their workforce, instilling a desire to perform to their best.

We already know that for most businesses the driving force is hitting sales targets, with managers implementing a range of key performance indicators to measure performance. These are important but there has to be connectivity between corporate and personal values. Asking for the emotional investment of workers is not easy but it can be achieved – remember again the analogy of the football World Cup. Remember, it’s often the small stuff that people value and appreciate.

This is just one example of how we can use the sport world as a mirror, shining a light on some of the most important leadership issues facing businesses in today’s uncertain climate. If you’re interested in finding out more, why not join us at Lincoln International Business School’s next LIBS Connect event in October?

Held in partnership with Lincoln City Football Club, and taking place in its new Legends Lounge, the event will provide businesses with the opportunity to network and learn from some of the best in the business, including Lincoln City’s CEO, Liam Scully and Director of Operations for the British and Irish Lions, Guy Richardson.

See what leadership insights you can take away to implement in your business and let the game begin.


For more information on LIBS Connect, or to book your place at the next event,  visit: