Excellence in Sports: The one trait many top CEOs have in common

CVK Sastry
May 20, 2022

Academic excellence has long been linked to professional and career success. A vast majority of corporate leaders and CEOs excelled in the classroom and brought home awards and accolades during their educational journey. While a strong academic foundation is necessary for success in nearly any industry, many top CEOs also have another trait in common: they were involved in sports. 

Sports excellence is common amongst leaders around the world, as involvement in sports, and specifically team sports, requires children to develop essential qualities, such as resilience, motivation, leadership and the willingness to work in a team.

These are just a few of the top CEOs who are currently leading global organisations, and have benefited from being involved with sports throughout their schooling:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: Learning leadership through cricket

Since 2014, one of the most notable software companies in the world has been led by Satya Nadella, an India-born business leader. Mr Nadella earned multiple degrees from different educational institutions in India and the United States. 

While his academic expertise provided him with the foundation he needed to kick-start his career, it was his time playing cricket at his high school in India that gave him the working knowledge he needed to lead a global corporation effectively. 

In particular, one incident from his time on the cricket team stands out. During a match, Nadella was not playing his best, and the team captain asked him to sit out for some time. However, he was given a second chance to play — and this shot at redemption taught him that everyone deserves another opportunity to try and succeed. 

Throughout his professional career, he has found that being a merciful leader has fostered an organic sense of drive to do better within his organisation.

Meg Whitman, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and eBay: Relying on sports for team Building

Meg Whitman, in full Margaret Whitman, nominee for US ambassador to Kenya, spent the majority of her professional career as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard and eBay. She attributes many of the leadership skills that she relies on, to her time spent on the field in high school. Ms Whitman excelled in various sports, including swimming, lacrosse, tennis, and basketball, during her formative years. 

She went on to attend Princeton University, where she continued her athletic career and learnt the importance of team-building through sports. As a CEO, she often relied on sports metaphors to connect with her team and help them develop a group mentality.

Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi: Understanding the importance of team goals through cricket

Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, known for her business acumen, was also a notable athlete throughout her educational career. 

During her tenure as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Nooyi said, she relied on her experience in team-based sports to lead the company into the future. She said that cricket taught her that it was more important to focus on the team's goals rather than individual accomplishments. 

By putting the team — or company — first, the entire organisation could move forward in the same direction.

Benefits of playing sports in school

Students of all ages benefit from the opportunity to play sports while they are in school. It's vital for your children to attend a school where they have access to a wide variety of sports, as this gives them a chance to discover what they like and where they excel. When your child participates in sports as part of their extracurricular activities, they will realise the value of sports, and the many benefits, including:

● Getting an early taste of leadership by playing with their team on the field.

● Developing a sense of team spirit and camaraderie.

● Learning resilience by making mistakes on the field and then learning from those experiences while focusing on the next goal.

● Becoming motivated to perform well and continuously improve.

● Developing a sense of well-being that will lead to improved academic performance in the classroom.

Students at a warm-up session at GIIS East Coast Campus

Discover academic excellence and sports excellence at GIIS East Coast

The GIIS East Coast campus focuses on the holistic development of each student. The campus has been thoughtfully designed to include many features and resources that encourage academic and sports excellence. The GIIS East Coast campus offers:

● Multiple curricula options that allow you to select the right academic path for your child and their future goals.

● Extensive sports facilities that include a synthetic track and field area, a tennis court, a football ground, cricket pitches, badminton courts and an in-built stadium. In addition, specialised training is available to talented athletes who qualify for GIIS’ Gold Squad programme, at no additional cost.

● Experienced and qualified educators who are familiar with the curricula options and work tirelessly to personalise the educational experience for each child.

● Skills-based learning opportunities that allow students to develop the 21st-century skills they will need through a hands-on, collaborative approach.

● Tech-enabled facilities that provide students with the chance to work with the latest technological resources.

Also read: How Sports play a vital role in schools

Schedule your campus tour today to see how academics and sports excellence are perfectly combined at the GIIS East Coast Campus, and how your child can benefit from both.

CVK Sastry

Principal, GIIS East Coast Campus, Singapore.

As a passionate educator and school head, Mr. Sastry has over 20 years of experience teaching across different curricula, including the IB Diploma and Cambridge IGCSE. Aside from fulfilling his responsibilities as a school principal, Mr. Sastry teaches Physics to secondary students. With a strong foundation in value-based education, Mr. Sastry had the unique experience of working with underprivileged school children in Kenya. He strongly believes that ‘every child is unique’ and needs to be shaped according to the passion they hold.

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