Greatness: What Do Sport & Business Have In Common?

Greatness: What Do Sport & Business Have In Common?


Sport creates a diversion away from the other aspects of life.

Children as well as adults engage in all kinds of competitive settings where objectives are identified, boundaries are set, order of play is identified, and so on.

In many ways, these games of play mirror and are mirrored by competitive activities in non-sporting settings such as everyday business.

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The lack of understanding of this visceral appeal of sports has led many to underestimate its influence and value. For instance, the famous sportscaster, Howard Cosell, derisively referred to sports as the “toy department” of life and sought to move beyond sports and into more serious broadcasting jobs his whole life.

Regardless of the setting or circumstance, and whether the challenge is in sports, life or business, the core characteristics of all great champions are the same, Yaeger said (sports journalist, best-selling author and business coach Don Yaeger). 

1. Is it always personal?

Yes – as simple as that. Great champions hate to lose even more than they love to win.

2. Association with the best

Great champions understand the power of association. While they are generally willing to help others at all levels, they are highly conscious that their own greatness is in many respects a summation of the top five individuals they associate with.

3. They provide contagious enthusiasm

Champions are not only positive thinkers, they are enthusiastic, and their enthusiasm rubs off.

4. They anticipate the best yet prepare to deal with all outcomes

Great sports heroes and great CEOs prepare for all possibilities before they step onto the field.

Related: 10 Characteristics of Superior Leaders

5. There is no off-season

What’s the “off season?” There is essentially no time that a great sports champion or a great business leader isn’t working in some way towards the next victory or game.

Great leaders never rest on their past achievements for long. The goal is always ahead and they are always thinking of and planning for the next big victory.

6. They are always a step ahead and visualise their success


To a person, great achievers see their victory and experience the result in their mind before the game begins. CEOs who’ve launched great product innovations — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs — have also recalled the experiences of visualising their victories well in advance of the facts.

7. They have ice in their veins

I would define this trait as the ability to act and react with careful consideration. True champions are thoughtful risk takers who don’t fear the possibility of making a mistake.

They deliberately act as opposed to react and they own the results of their decisions in every case. While some sports champions and CEOs are famous for their flaring tempers, the very best champions are able to make key decisions while holding their emotions in check.

8. They are able to adjust in a heartbeat

A new competitor with a market approach you hadn’t anticipated, or a sudden global crisis? A debilitating injury? Great leaders know how to adjust their game plan quickly when the unexpected occurs.

9. They are teammates

The greatest champions are willing to take whatever role is necessary for the team to achieve an ultimate win.

10. They are not motivated solely by money

This is an interesting phenomenon. If it isn’t the money that motivates the greatest sports heroes most — and research shows it isn’t the money that motivates the best CEOs — why do the multi-million dollar contracts and CEO packages need to exist? As it turns out, these are market driven issues more than motivating factors for the greatest achievers in business and sports.

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11. They know: Records are made to be broken

The greatest champions know that their legacy is far beyond the achievements they made in the boardroom or on the field. They don’t get caught up in the “image of their greatness” and mistake it as the definition of their actual worth.

Great leaders are grateful for the opportunities they’ve been given. In most cases they are humble and active in their efforts to teach and empower the next generations of champion achievers as well.

Most of us will never become sports heroes. However, every entrepreneur carries the opportunity to create a heroic business and to lead their organisation, or their division or even their own career function with the same characteristics that have defined the world’s top sports champions and renowned CEOs.

Important is that you never stop believing. Only if you try you will either fail, learn from it and stand up again or succeed and reach for the next opportunity coming your way.

Max Hussmann
Max was born to German parents and having grown up in West Africa, Max studied in one of Europe's well known Universities International Relations and Finance - which let his move at an early stage after his degree to Latin America where he remained for 3 years and worked on his business ideas. Africa - you either love it or you hate it as the saying goes: Max returned to Africa in 2009 and has been here ever since growing a number of businesses. His extreme focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and the change so urgently needing in South Africa have raised controversy - not stopping him on his path of change. He believes in the continent being the land of opportunities which we way too often seem to forget. Openly speaking about the political issues Africa faces he aims to be the game changer - his book provides more inside on his chain of thought and passion! A saying by Winston Churchill he strongly believes in: “To improve is to change, to perfect is to change constant."