06/26/2014 04:00 pm ET Updated Aug 26, 2014

Does Soccer Make the Man?


If clothes make the man, does it follow that the sports he chose to play in childhood shape his choice of work clothes and personal life choices as an adult? With the World Cup in its height and anticipation with each kick and discussion over a given whistle, there are fresh fans gathering with new thoughts. A lot of impromptu conversations of teams while watching games has been spoken, particularly from the men standing tall and proud and gathered around the large screens who have stated that they too used to play soccer at some point in their lives. In these public viewing areas, it is clear that there is a distinct correlation between accomplishments in life and the ability to be a team player.

Life is a team sport. A team not restricted to a soccer field or a court, but a view of the every day. We should all strive to be a member of an excellent team that we are free to choose. Whether we choose it to be a team of family members or friends or colleagues, the true mark of a successful life is to matter and be relevant and vital to those that surround our own lives. In a team, one of the fundamental first steps to be successful is to be liked. Being liked not as a sense of popularity per se, but rather appreciated in the form of unquestioned support and unweathered acceptance by those around you.

Teamwork is not incongruent to leadership. The best leaders are often the strongest team players. The best teammates on the field, and in life, are those around you that are not always competing but rather wanting others to perform to their own excellent standards. It is sometimes the hardest part and great weakness of a leader to separate themselves from those around them. It is a lesson in transformation to change from being one of the team, to being in essence the coach.

Many companies are led by strong people who need to learn to adjust from being liked as a team member, to being respected as a leader. It is a personal cost a leader needs to bear to move from being "one of" to being "the." It is a conscious decision to step away and lead. It is a loss of a level of unanimous camaraderie to choose to be a leader, but it is a mark of strength to accept the responsibility of the singularity of one's own name as the one accountable. A leader is strong enough to demand better from those around him and has the strength to temporarily lose his likability in doing so. The leaders in life are often the best listeners and need to accurately understand subjective feelings as well as objectively respond to direct needs so that the whole excels.

When we are young we are told to behave in a respectable manner if we are dressed in our sport uniforms. When we openly associate ourselves as a member of a company, a profession, a family, a friend or a partner, we need to uphold a certain level of decorum to honor those that we are associated with, and particularly and perhaps most importantly, when they not are beside us. The most respected and esteemed persons are those that remember to act respectfully, speak kindly, and place trust in the members of the people in their lives team.