5 Powerful characteristics shared between successful student athletes and successful business leaders

Former collegiate athletes possess many of the “intangible” skills that employers look for in future leaders. These athletes use the skills they learned from a lifetime of sports to compete and win in the job market. There are specific character traits that will help in most work environments.


1. They accept that making mistakes is part of the learning process

Worrying about perfection can be paralyzing in both sport and in business. Great business leaders and athletes alike know you have to be willing to make mistakes in order to grow and ultimately succeed. “The best players learn from their mistakes and cope with failure as well as success. That’s what separates the leader on the court from the pack. And if you fail, you need to learn from your mistakes. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Suffering defeat should serve as a lesson to keep going, to work at being even better than before.”, says basketball legend, Pau Gasol.

In business and in sport, everyone makes mistakes, the great ones have figured out to learn the most from them.


2. They put team members in positions to succeed

When team captains perform their duties well, it can make a big difference for their team. Great captains aren’t interested in personal glory. Instead, they constantly look for ways to serve their team and help it accomplish its goals. You can see them “directing traffic” to ensure that the game plan is executed well. They have the mentality that together everyone achieves more which makes them an ideal teammate.

The same goes in business, good leaders will recognize the talents of their team members and put them in the right places to succeed and grow.


3. They are humble and accountable

Humility is one of the most vitally important but most overlooked virtues in sports. Ask any coach and they will tell you they love to coach players that are humble and hungry. Embracing humility in leadership finds that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Humble athletes have the freedom to root for their teammates (even when they’re not playing), inspire those around them (even when they don’t feel like it), and help the team reach a level of performance that was unattainable without a humble approach.

Great executives are willing to be accountable when things don’t go according to plan. Passing the buck is a sign of weak leadership. Instead, executives need to burden the blame when a company experiences an issue. When things are going well, executives and athletes don’t take the credit. They credit their teams for success.


4. They stay calm under pressure

Successful people control their emotions and remain calm under pressure. At a time of hyper-competitiveness and an unprecedented pace of change, feelings of stress may be at their highest levels. Great athletes don’t let the pressure bring them down – they use it as fuel. Successful executives are no different. When it’s time to perform, they buckle down and focus, knowing the pressure they face is only going to make their work better.

This mindset elevates the people around athletes and executives. If the stress of a project isn’t visibly affecting the mindset of a project manager, their staff is more likely to not let the pressure get to them.


5. They don’t dwell on the past

Confidence is high when you are able to accept the fact that you will make mistakes, let go of the last play and re-focus on what you need to do in the present. Having a short memory or letting go of mistakes will help you maintain your confidence at peak levels. Whether it is losing a sale, giving a bad presentation or realizing that you let the team down, business leaders identify the mistakes, learn from them and move on.

Athletes and executives who excel, don’t dwell on the past whether it’s negative or positive. They worry about how they can execute in the present, and future.