How sport can help you win

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BRITAIN'S PUBLIC schools have, of course, long since seen the close link between sports and leadership. Not for nothing were the playing fields of Eton seen as the proving ground for those who were to run the Empire.

But in recent years the power of sports to influence business success has become increasingly acknowledged. Management gurus and consultants have, for instance, made extensive use of sporting metaphors as a way of focusing executives' thinking. Accordingly, terms such as "run with the ball" and, indeed, "player" and "team" pepper the business lexicon in much the same way as military references do.

The growing interest in leadership has, if anything, only heightened this interest. With managers increasingly being told that they should inspire rather than give orders and should coach as opposed to boss about, the sports connection has never looked more tempting.

And it is presumably with this in mind, as much as the appeal for business people to see sporting stars first hand, that the Institute of Directors is involving the former athletics coach Frank Dick, former England rugby captain Will Carling and Mike Brearley, who as captain of the England team used his psychoanalytical skills to bring out the best in his cricketers, in a one-day conference called The Business of Winning.

To be held at the institute's headquarters in Pall Mall on 13 November, the event is designed to show how directors can unleash their own leadership skills to achieve better levels of performance from their staff.

The three big names will be using a variety of coaching techniques and sporting strategies to help delegates to identify the characteristics needed in an effective leader, develop self-awareness, self-confidence and integrity, create the right environment for promoting confidence and success and maintain a climate for peak performance.

Will Carling has, with the management writer Robert Heller, written a book on achieving success in sports and business and has run executive coaching classes. He says: "The sports field and business world may well be different environments, but the principles that underpin the champions, in either, are the same. The winning teams create a unique philosophy where leadership, coaching and teamwork are practised and developed by all, with a mindset that focuses on success and rejects any comfort zones."

Andrew Main Wilson, managing director of IoD Enterprises, adds that in his search for examples of outstanding leaders he rapidly came to the conclusion that "our leading sports captains and coaches could offer the most valuable leadership and team-building insight to directors in businesses of all sizes".