Hike Leadership Forward – Sportsmanship

An effective organizational leader knows how to win and how to lose. Sometimes knowing how to win is more difficult than knowing how to lose. Both winning and losing demand integrity, humility, sensitivity. Since we live in such a sports-minded society and a world that competes athletically in many international events, sportsmanship seems like a good descriptor for leadership. As we look at five attributes of sportsmanship, transfer these ideas to your organization and your leadership role within the company.

According to Masterclass, there are five qualities that contribute to the overall concept of sportsmanship: 1) Be supportive, 2) Have a positive attitude, 3) Be respectful, 4) Be willing to learn, and 5) Practice self-discipline. As we explore each one of these qualities in a little more detail, think about winning, then think about losing and how these characteristics surface in both outcomes.

#1. Be supportive. Words of negative criticism and blame casting can be so discouraging that they cause additional errors instead of correcting them. On the other hand, positive encouragement and supportive comments can inspire others with forgiveness and understanding. Hopefully, there is no one in the organization who wants to do a bad job or to let the rest of the team down. If you have hired people who buy into the mission statement and desire to see the organization succeed, then you can assume that they are all doing the very best job they can and they want to win. Don’t take a disappointment out on your employees; don’t shift responsibilities from your shoulders to someone else’s plate. Sportsmanship involves cheerleading, being a motivational speaker, offering a genuine fist bump or a high-five of celebration and renewing the confidence of a good employee who made a mistake.

#2 Have a positive attitude. If you are by nature a pessimist, check you attitude before every meeting, during the meeting itself, and after the meeting is over. If you are not having fun, if you are not laughing, if you are not finding the positive light in the situation, you are most likely leading your organization into a dark cave filled with bats. Childish behavior, temper tantrums, and quiet pouting can splash freezing cold water on evaluation, goal setting, strategic planning, and teamwork. I have a dear friend who shared with me that his goal is to be most positive person in any room he enters… and he accomplishes it. I love being around him, I will follow him at a moment’s notice, I believe we can accomplish whatever he suggests. His positive attitude is contagious, and I desire to catch it.  

#3 Be respectful. Verbal put downs directed toward colleagues or opponents only serves to tarnish the leader’s reputation. The natural tendency to trade slams and to return evil for evil might temporary satisfaction for the leader, but the impact of sportsmanship is scratched and dented. Whining about decisions and arguing among the team can destroy the spirit of sportsmanship. Negative trash talk should stay in the trash. Bragging and rubbing in should find the circular file as well.  Respect for others, whether above you, on the same rung, or lower than you on the organizational ladder, should be the demonstrated with upmost care. Don’t let pride or ambition get in the way of good sportsmanship.  

#4 Be willing to learn. If you win, capture what you did right, evaluate the combination of elements that brought a victory, and make note of the potential pitfalls you avoided. If you lose, make an honest list of your mistakes and design a plan to mitigate or eliminate those errors. It is often easier to learn from mistake than it is from successes. The mistakes are usually more obvious, while the details in the recipe for victory might easily get overlooked. Once the positive and negative elements are identified, practice doing the good stuff and be careful to eliminate the mistakes.  Learning from the past and striving to improve as an organization promotes a spirit of sportsmanship in the organization.

#5 Practice self-control. Of the five characteristics, this is the most practical and important. Sportsmanship is determined and defined by the amount of self-control demonstrated by the leader. Yelling, banging of the desk, losing your hold on your emotions, losing the appropriate selection of vocabulary, and throwing things across the room set the standards of sportsmanship of fire. People can push our buttons, red tape can frustrate our patience, opposition can crush our vision, “no” can bend the enthusiasm of “yes.” If the leader focuses on his/her emotions, sportsmanship will suffer in the heat of battle. However, if the leader can focus on the mission and embrace the journey as an adventure, the hurdles, the buttons, the opposition, all become part of the end game.          

How to Show Good Sportsmanship: 5 Qualities of a Good Sport (With Video) (masterclass.com)

Photo: Good Sportsmanship — Parks & Rec Business (PRB) (parksandrecbusiness.com)

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