Why are businesses so interested in learning from the world of sport?

Hoping that magic dust will rub off from superheroes who have won medals and broken records is completely understandable. And rather charming.

But the go-to habit of inviting sportstars to share leadership, motivation, how-to-win experiences and wisdom is beginning to feel a tad old fashioned.

“Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day to day living that wears you out”

is where my questioning starts.

A sports star trains for a particular event: a team leader is team leader all the time.  A sports star is aiming to win against a know-able group of competitors; a team leader is aiming to deliver/ invest/ create / research / improve …and thus ‘win’ within a constantly changing context.

A sports star is rewarded and prepares for the next event: a team leader is, yes, again, a team leader all the time. Sometimes a team leader catalyses success and actively deflects credit to others.

A sports star must understand the competition in order to overreach them: a team leader, in this ever-changing world, may need to form unlikely collaborations and alliances. Yesterday’s competitor may be tomorrow’s ally. Teams change and morph constantly.

A sports star invests in optimizing a set of skills: a team leader is invested in unlocking hitherto unknown skills in others. Potential unleashed can surprise everyone and change everything.

Sports stars become stars by being amazing, talented and dedicated: team leaders too. As do many inspiring people living varied lives.

If business keeps looking just to sport for role models and insight, then other potentially inspiring models of leadership will remain unknown.

And all because we are star struck, because we don’t look closely enough at a little myth that still has power over us: thinking of business as ‘play up and play the game’.

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