For years, Levi Metheny has devoted an exceptional amount of time and effort to one of his true passions in life: sports. Born and raised in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, he played both varsity football and basketball. As his skills as an athlete continued to develop, he found himself with a deep love of not just football but physical activity in general.
After receiving a full scholarship for the University of Albany, he continued to play football – this time, as a linebacker. All told, he was a starter for three years in a row and was even acknowledged as FCS Pre-Season All-American. His football career continued at Murray State University, where he received his MBA.
All throughout this period, Levi Metheny began to recognize that many of the lessons that he was learning on the field could be just as valid – and helpful – in the “real world.” More specifically, he came to understand the tangible ways in which sports help people develop necessary leadership skills – something that is true in a wide range of different ways, all of which are more than worth a closer look.
The Intersection of Sports and Leadership Skills: Breaking Things Down
For Levi Metheny, one of the biggest ways that sports help to develop someone’s own sense of leadership comes down to the way the former emphasizes teamwork – a quality that is absolutely imperative to the latter.
Yes, every sports team has its “star players” – the ones that consistently score the winning touchdown or who make the final goal to end the game. But as the old saying goes, “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team.'” For a sports team to be successful, they need to come together as more than just the sum of their parts. They need to be a collective – a series of individuals who bring their own unique skills to the table and are all able to form something more powerful as a unit than any one of them could be on their own, including those star players.
In sports, it’s essential to make sure that everyone’s individual contributions are all focused in the same direction and are dedicated to accomplishing the same goal. Really, that’s no different than how things are handled in the business world, too.
Those “star players” on the field are often the leaders who inspire those around them to work together and to positively influence the common objective. It should come as no surprise that many of those same skills can be just as invaluable in a corporate office as they can be in a locker room.
For Levi Metheny, one of the qualities that all great leaders possess has to do with their communication skills. It’s not enough to just make sure that people understand what they’re being asked to do. They need to believe in how they’re about to do it. They need to see how their efforts are adding up to something bigger than themselves. Communication is a critical part of that – the ability to convey not just what must be done, but why it’s so important.
This is another one of those areas where the world of sports and the world of business intersect. Leaders use communication skills to keep everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. They use these skills to motivate people and inspire them to give their all to a shared cause. Whether that cause is “winning the next big game” or “performing exceptional work for a client” doesn’t actually matter – the underlying theme remains the same.
In Metheny’s opinion, sports also help to develop necessary leadership skills by instilling within players a much-needed sense of self-discipline. It’s very, very rare to find an athlete who is naturally, exceptionally gifted at what they do. In the vast majority of all cases, the skills they display are the result of endless hours of practice and training. They understand that they need to continually develop what they’re able to do to go from who they are to who they always hoped they would one day become.
This is again part of the way that sports can help develop the leadership skills that people can take with them for the rest of their lives. Even team leaders in a business environment are not perfect. They’re always working to learn more, develop new skills, and find out how they can take their past successes and turn them into even greater ones in the future. This requires an enormous amount of self-discipline – you know what needs to be done, now you just need to commit to doing it.
It’s a quality that you’re not going to be able to make it to a successful sports team without, and you likely won’t get far in a business environment, either.
In the end, Levi Metheny isn’t saying that to be successful in business, you need to have been successful in sports as well. However, when it comes to critical leadership skills, in particular, he does believe that sports help to develop those qualities that are necessary for success – just perhaps in a more unique fashion than a lot of people are accustomed to.