10 Traits Leaders Can Learn From Athletes

Last night, along with the majority of the sport-loving population, I watched the eagerly anticipated Super Rugby final.


An epic New Zealand versus Australia clash, the Chiefs came from behind to retain their Super Rugby title, winning 27-22 over the Brumbies.

I’m sure there are a few sore heads around the country this morning – and rightly so.

And in celebrating the victorious result, I was reminded of the similarities between elite athletes and effective leaders.

Here are 10 traits leaders can learn from sporting heroes:

1. Passion – wholeheartedly loving what you do.
2. Persistence – never give up. When the going gets tough, go harder.
3. Commitment – total dedication at all times.
4. Grit – knowing a bit of pain is necessary for results.
5. Discipline – knowing and following the rules of the game.
6. Listening – taking on board advice from the captain, coach, trainers and team mates.
7. Rest and recovery – performing at key games. Then knowing the value of rest and recovery.
8. Vision – the most effective way to develop cohesion is through unified vision – keeping an eye on the prize.
9. Teamwork – working together towards a goal. We can’t do it alone.
10. Performance – focusing on mind, body and spirit to achieve peak performance.

Congratulations to The Chiefs!


  1. […] leadership, being clear on what success looks like is also paramount to achieving it. See here for what I […]

  2. Dan Black on August 5, 2013 at 4:16 am

    Great post. It’s amazing what we can learn from watching sports. Each of the elements you mentioned are essential. I’ve learned discipline and passions are two of the most important. Loved this post!

    • The Leader's Digest on August 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks Dan! Absolutely – and discipline fueled by passion has to be a winning formula. Cheers, Suzi.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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