What do female executives have in common? A 2002 study done by Oppenheimer found that 82% of women in executive-level positions had played organized sports in middle, high or post-secondary school and nearly half of women earning over $75,000 identified themselves as athletic. A more recent survey by Ernst & Young validated these results and found that 96% of women at the senior executive level played sports at some level. This global survey highlights the important role of sports in the development of leadership skills. The behaviors and strategies learned through sports foster a mental and emotional toughness essential for the corporate environment. Athletics creates discipline, intense focus, competitiveness, and builds teamwork. Forbes writer Jenna Goudreau reported that, “The drive to win is arguably the most important predictor of business success.”
Sports can also build confidence, problem-solving abilities, and a positive attitude that can transfer to other aspects of life. The feelings associated with winning and losing afford an athlete the opportunity to deal with adversity and learn resilience. Athletes acquire a different mindset and often develop greater endurance and tenacity which can prove necessary in corporate America. Competitiveness creates goal-directed behaviors and fosters coping skills for life.
Do you have to be an elite female athlete to be successful in business? Of course not, but participating in sports or even just knowing about a sport can give you an edge in the business world and leadership awareness. Personally I learned a lot from competing in sports at the university level and appreciate the value of perseverance and adopting a “never give up” mindset. Whether it is the “thrill of victory or the agony of defeat” (quoting the Wide World of Sports) we learn tremendous life skills by competing in sports. As research has shown, high-profile businesswomen often acquired the necessary characteristics to succeed at work through their athletic experiences.