Not many professional athletes ask to be role models, nor are they necessarily adequately prepared. Essentially, it is a result of the occupation they have chosen to do and they have to learn on the job.
So why do they make the sacrifices they do to be robed in a responsibility they have not chosen for themselves?
They love what they do
Athletes value their chosen profession and for this reason, they endure both pleasure and pain in the pursuit of success.
It meets their core needs
Both psychology and personal development theory identify that humans need certain core needs met for elite performance to occur. In layman’s terms they relate to optimal levels of challenge, feedback, connection, recognition and contribution. Good sporting environments with strong cultures provide all of these to athletes.
Gratitude & service
Whilst public opinion may not always see it this way, the vast majority of athletes are hugely grateful for the opportunities that they have been given. For this reason, they are more than happy to serve the fans that follow them.
When these three attributes are combined, athletes possess a powerful combination of engagement and perseverance.
So what does this mean for you and your work environment?
If you are ambitious, like it or not, you are already a role model
This is true to those working under you, and those above you who definitely expect that you will act in that way. So, ready or not…, just like a rookie athlete, you need to accept it and learn on the go!
Loving what you do evokes leadership
People are drawn to authenticity. By identifying your own values and aligning them to your current role and your career path, you will awaken vision and encourage people to follow your lead.
Question your team culture – is it meeting your needs?
If you are not self-aware enough to realise that your current role is not meeting your development needs, you are likely to stay uninspired in a world increasingly selecting on potential. This is likely to mean more time on the bench than in the starting line-up.
Self-awareness is therefore the start to all growth, whether that be in your current position or another. Playing at a professional level means it is your responsibility and not the coach’s to get yourself going.
Be grateful for your opportunities – because you chose them!
Nothing is more annoying than a rock star athlete who is oblivious and ungrateful for the opportunities surrounding them. Well, the same goes for employees. Be grateful for the faith your company has put in you; at least at one stage, they were your biggest fan.
Remember… you don’t have to play the game if you don’t want to.