Search
  • Tara Rethore

Do You Incite Tug of War?

Updated: Aug 2

Competition is in the air.


World-class tennis and the World Athletics Championships give way to the Tour de France and baseball. US politicians deepen partisan divides in search of success at the polls. The Russia-Ukraine war dominates the geopolitical and business landscape as leaders around the world wrestle with its broader implications.


Meanwhile in business, another war rages as companies battle inflation and soaring salaries to compete for talent, a resource that seems to have vanished overnight.


Indeed: competition is in the air.


Sport can be an excellent mirror for leadership.


In so many contexts, competition is seen as adversarial. After all, there is a prize on the line – titles or medals; earnings and stock price; or whole countries. Interestingly, however, Merriam Webster defines competition as "one who strives for the same thing as another." No acrimony required.


Sport can be an excellent mirror for leadership, business, and geopolitics. In fact, recent sporting events reminded me of the less bitter face of competition. Amid the titles and medal counts, progression and community emerged brilliantly. Athletes and analysts alike celebrated the ways in which competitors advanced their sports, irrespective of medals. Athletes showed us in word and deed the value of community, irrespective of nation or ideology.


Leaders set the stage for progress and mold their community. They shape the collective mindset of the team, while holding themselves accountable for the results. (Read an example of this here.) A leader’s attitudes and actions determine what competition means and the role it plays in meeting objectives. Leaders set the tone and model the methods.


Consider this:

  • To what extent do you celebrate effort and learning?

  • In what ways do you acknowledge individual contributions?

  • How do you project confidence in your team’s ability to get the job done?

  • Do you inspire adversaries or partners among your team?

With war dominating the headlines, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative face of competition. Yet, it is also an opportunity to shine a light on its other side, to show your team – and the world – an alternate path. You decide:


Will you strive together for the same, shared objective?

Or will you incite tug of war?