Vitali Klitschko illustrates that leadership comes from more than sports by Rick Morrissey at Chicago Sun-Times on 7 March 2014

The article uses former Ukrainian professional boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko as a visible example of leadership, especially in light of the issues surrounding Russia and the Ukraine.  I was scanning this article and was about to discard it when I read something that made me stop:

“The bottom line is that sports don’t make leaders; sports make leaders obvious.”

The author makes an interesting observation.  If you are into sports, then you get to watch the athletes grow and develop in front of you.  You become a strong supporter of their success over time, which I think would make you more likely to follow them.  In team sports, teammates are also more likely to follow the gifted people.  When you see everyone looking at one person as a leader, do you tend to do the same even if you don’t know them?  With the pervasive nature of sports within Canadian culture, and with the broadcast hosts touting the leadership virtues of various people, are we more likely to see sports figures as leaders – regardless of their true abilities as a leader?

“Competitiveness, resilience and confidence are traits that can carry over into an athlete’s post-retirement career. But are they exclusive to athletes? Our sports-crazy culture certainly wants us to think so, but they are not.”

The end of the article highlights that sports are not a prerequisite to being a leader, and infers that you can use sports leadership for “good” and “bad” purposes (casting Russian President Vladimir Putin in the “bad” group).

If symphonies were to be as widely televised as sports are today – would we be more inclined to see conductors are leaders?  What about school debates?  Perhaps we see so many sports-based leaders because that is where we as a society choose to focus.  What would society look like if we found our leaders elsewhere?

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