The FIFA World Cup is in full swing and the USA has a win against Ghana, a tie against Portugal, and a huge game today against Germany. Soccer is suddenly everywhere! Of course, in most of the world it's always everywhere. In the US, it's popularity has been growing now that a couple of generations of American kids have grown up learning soccer in rec leagues, and later playing or cheering for high school, college and professional teams, the momentum is obvious.
Most every sport requires conditioning, skills and commitment, but soccer brings a unique combination of elements to applaud and learn from. In the excitement around the World Cup and the US national men's soccer team, there are some leadership lessons that we should take note of.
Flexible game plan: When you watch these games there are a number of unexpected challenges that each team has to respond to. There are injuries, missed calls and weather conditions that coaches deal with.
How do you deal with unexpected challenges in the workplace? Miscommunications, employees that call in sick, or a sharp drop in revenue. Leaders must always be able to adapt and have the ability to be flexible and respond with a secondary plan.
Diverse capabilities: A key element of the game, of course, is that players (except for the goalie) are forbidden from using their hands or arms. It goes against intuition to impose what seems to be such a limiting restriction -- but players more than make up for the loss with dazzling moves involving their feet, legs, head and shoulders.
Do you rely on your key strength to the detriment of other things? How effective would you be if that strength were suddenly neutralized? Do you need to diversify your base of skills and expertise?
A big-picture orientation: Soccer moves fast with two 45 minute halves and a short 15 halftime between them. There are no opportunities for team members to communicate in time-outs or huddles during play. It's critical that players stay sharply aware of the flow of the game so they can anticipate where they need to be and what they need to do.
Fortunately, in business we usually have the luxury of time and channels for communication to happen. But the need to stay consistently informed is the same. Do you have effective systems in place -- personally and organizationally -- to stay on top of everything that's going on around you?
Endurance. Soccer players are exceptionally well conditioned. They play hard for 90 minutes, often in hot and humid conditions. Depending on the position, a player may run up to nine miles during the course of a game.
Beyond natural talent, there's no secret to developing these skills--on the soccer field or in business. It requires: discipline, consistent practice, determination to improve, and a commitment to the team and its goals.
With those elements in place, you'll be ready to compete and win.