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  • Writer's pictureAnJenette Afridi. MA

The Leadership PlayBook: Borrowing Tools and Skills from the World of Elite Athletes


In the world of sports, elite athletes are constantly striving for that competitive edge, be it through rigorous training or focused mindset. Similarly, the realm of leadership is fraught with challenges that demand peak performance. But what if leaders could borrow tools and strategies from these athletes to excel in their roles? Explore with AnJenette how the skills honed on the playing field can be translated into effective leadership tactics.

Mental Toughness: The Foundation of Great Leadership

Elite athletes often exhibit mental toughness to maintain focus, perseverance, and resilience when faced with adversity. This skill is directly transferable to leaders who must navigate complex scenarios, make critical decisions, and maintain composure in stressful situations.

Application for Leaders: Develop mental toughness through exercises such as scenario-based training or even mindfulness practices. Embrace setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth.

Team Cohesion - The Power of Unity: In sports, team cohesion is critical for performance. Players must understand their roles, trust their teammates, and align with the team’s goals. Likewise, leaders should foster a cohesive team environment for organizational success.

Application for Leaders: Conduct regular team-building activities and make sure each member knows their role and how it contributes to the larger mission. Ensure open channels of communication to build trust.

Goal Setting: The Blueprint for Success

Elite athletes are well-acquainted with setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). The same framework can be utilized by leaders to outline objectives clearly and track progress effectively.

Application for Leaders: Adopt the SMART goals framework when planning projects or setting performance indicators. Review these goals periodically to adapt to changing conditions.

Physical Fitness: A Cornerstone of Peak Performance

Elite athletes understand the importance of maintaining their physical health to perform at their best. This concept is often overlooked in leadership roles, yet physical wellbeing significantly impacts cognitive function and emotional stability.

Application for Leaders: Integrate regular exercise into your routine and encourage your team to do the same. Consider implementing wellness programs that focus on holistic health, which includes physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Self-Reflection: The Tool for Continuous Improvement

Athletes frequently review game footage or receive coaching to improve. Leaders can adopt a similar self-reflective practice to evaluate their actions, decisions, and leadership style.

Application for Leaders: Make self-reflection a routine. This could be through journaling, seeking feedback, and utilizing leadership coaches to gain new perspectives.


Leadership and elite sports share fundamental principles that revolve around performance, team dynamics, and personal development. By adopting tools and strategies from the realm of athletics, leaders can not only enhance their skills but also bring a unique and effective approach to their role. In the fast-paced world of business, having an athlete's mindset could be your winning strategy.

About the Author

AnJenette Afridi, MA, is an active member of the National Speakers Association and a lifelong member of the American Psychological Association. Her expertise is fortified by decades of experience, a magna cum laude Master of Arts in Sport Psychology (MA) accompanied by a distinguished Certificate of Honor for Excellence in Master's Project Research on Motivation, and a deep engagement in a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program including a certificate in Organizational Psychology. TriEdge Leadership Mindset is a revolutionary approach that fuses the mental toughness honed by elite athletes through leading-edge Sport Psychology, the principles of organizational excellence and team dynamics from advanced Organizational Psychology, and enhanced cognitive agility and behavioral awareness grounded in evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Science into actionable game plans.


AnJenette Afridi, MA |

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