At WISE HK we advocate that sports are a powerful tool to help build and hone our leadership acumen. We believe that sports provide a safe space to practice the underlying attitude and skills that comprise “leadership skills.” Sports are a safe haven for people – irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, social-economic status and sexual orientation – to regularly meet and connect with peers, and mentors and coaches who support them to build specific knowledge, mind-set and skills that are necessary in our daily lives.

When it comes to women and leadership skills, we believe that sports are a crucial tool to empower women and girls with the ambition to lead. Across the world and across many industries, women lag men in leadership positions. Despite some great strides made in recent years, women only make up 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. In Hong Kong, despite comprising 54.2% of the population, women represent only 13.8% and 10% of board seats of the Hang Seng Index listed companies and of Legco, respectively. In the financial services sector, women make up 52% of entry-level positions, but make up 33% of senior management, and only 21% of the board. In tertiary education, there has never been a female university vice chancellor.

Gender diversity can increase innovation, and diverse boards can boost company performance – but only if there are enough women. It’s obvious that we need to do more to accelerate women to positions of leadership. 

How can sports play a role in addressing the leadership gap challenges women face, and how does participating in sports contribute to enhancing management, leadership, team, business and workplace skills that propel one to the top?

We will be exploring this topic on 27 February 2019 at our event “From the athletic field to the business world: Getting to the top with an athletic mind-set.” We look forward to a productive discussion with our speakers. You can sign up today.

Meanwhile, we want to take this opportunity to offer how we think sports provide a platform for us to learn and hone our leadership skills.

Photo by Kevar Whilby on Unsplash

According to a Forbes article, there are 16 essential leadership skills for work. We’ll be discussing the first eight of these mentioned skills.

Fearless Agility

Sometimes on the sporting field, things can be unpredictable. Basic conditions like weather can limit what we can or cannot do. Think sailing, mountain climbing or ultra marathons where wind, snow and rain test our courageousness and ability to adapt, and force us to think quickly and effectively to keep up with conditions.  Many sports, such as extreme or adventure sports even require an ability to face the unknown and to respond to external circumstances.

Earning respect

In all sports, players have to follow rules and display sportsmanship: a respect for opponents and to play with integrity and fairness. Players need to hold themselves responsible to work diligently on the field for themselves, for their team and for their sport, as well as to be accountable for their actions and behaviours. Players who uphold themselves to the highest standards of sportsmanship earn respect.


Many sports are played as a team, comprising of individuals who come from different backgrounds. Without mutual understanding and willingness to build emotional intelligence within ourselves and with each other, it would be difficult to contribute effectively as a team. Playing sports equip us to be empathetic with our teammates as we learn each other contexts and how we can be supportive of each other on and off the field.


Players on a sports team need to encourage each other, even in the toughest of times. Teammates know how to motivate each other, to show kindness and to show trust and belief in each other, and importantly, to meet others’ needs even before your own. On the sporting field, selflessness is displayed when teammates actively seek to set their teammates up for success, and in so doing, set the team up for success.


In competition and games, players on a sports team constantly need to be aware of their opponents’ plays and strategies, and recognize any changes that may affect their own game plan. As a result, players learn to embrace transitions and manage change according to the reality of the situation. They learn to treat uncertainty and change as normal and to face new challenges head on.

Committing to a clear vision

Athletes and sports team function in pursuit of a mission and vision, be it to win championships, to reach certain milestones, to gain new sports skills or to enhance health. Individuals and teams that have clear vision and goals, who know what they stand for and want to reach are likelier to attract and retain players that are committed for the long haul – important aspects for seeing improvements and desired results.


Players on a sports team learn to listen to coaches, captains, teammates and referees. Players on a team need to be adept at active listening: to focus and pay attention, to correctly interpret verbal and non-verbal messages and signals, and to think and take action in order to effectively and seamlessly function as a team. 


In a sports team, it’s not all about one person but about how everyone can enable each other to be better prepared for games and competitions. Athletes understand s/he cannot do it alone, and that everyone has both on and off days. The strongest athletes understand that s/he is not the most important person on the team, nor is the best skilled at every aspect of the sport. The strongest athletes strive for improvement and new learning.

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Sports provide many opportunities for us to practice leadership skills. Join us on 27 February 2019 at “From the athletic field to the business world: Getting to the top with an athletic mind-set” and see how our speakers have found sports to be transferable to their leadership journey.