5 Lessons Leaders Should Learn from March Madness & Why it’s OK to be the Underdog
Home 9 Leader's Digest 9 5 Lessons Leaders Should Learn from March Madness & Why it’s OK to be the Underdog

by | Mar 22, 2023 | Leader's Digest

This year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament can teach us a lot about leadership. We share 5 lessons that can be learned from this year’s tourney, why it’s okay to be the underdog, +BONUS: The psychology behind why we love upsets so much.

The madness has begun, and this year’s tournament has not disappointed. Having played basketball collegiately and overseas, it should be no surprise that I love the madness that March brings. Cinderella stories, buzzer-beaters, upsets, underdogs, blowouts, you name it, I’m a fan. As I watch the madness unravel, I can’t help but find all the hidden lessons that we leaders can learn.

Here are 5 that have stood out to me this year:  

  1. The importance of preparation: Coaches and players spend months preparing for the big stage, and the most successful teams are often the ones that are the most prepared. The same is true in leadership; the most effective leaders are those who take the time to prepare and plan ahead.
  2. The value of teamwork: Basketball is a team sport, and the teams that work together the best are often the ones that come out on top. Effective leaders understand the value of teamwork and encourage collaboration among their team members.
  3. The need to adapt to changing circumstances: Basketball games can be unpredictable, and the teams that can adapt to changing circumstances are often the ones that are most successful. The same is true in leadership; the most effective leaders are those who are able to pivot and adjust their strategies when circumstances change.
  4. The importance of resilience: During March Madness, teams face adversity and setbacks, but the most successful ones are often the ones that are the most resilient. Influential leaders understand the importance of resilience and are able to bounce back from setbacks and challenges.
  5. The power of motivation: Basketball games can be intense and emotional, and effective coaches are often the ones who are able to motivate their players and keep them focused on their goals. Great leaders understand the power of motivation and are able to inspire their team members to achieve great things.

Another point I want to make is – It is okay to be the underdog. If this year has proved anything, it is MORE THAN okay to be the underdog. Why? We, as humans, are naturally drawn to underdogs. They are relatable, underdogs inspire hope and perseverance, and they renew faith in all of us that even if the odds are against us, there is still a chance to win.

With their “nothing to lose” mentality and willingness to take risks, being an underdog can bring freedom, a sense of relaxation, motivation to prove others wrong, and improve individual performance.

The Upside of Being an Underdog, as shared in Harvard Business Review, explains how “underdog expectations” can be a crucial motivator, especially in the workplace.

Overall, March Madness can teach all of us a lot about leadership. As you watch the games tonight, I challenge you to look for ways leadership shines through.

BONUS: Chelsi Day, Sports Psychologist and Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, wrote a great article I wanted to share about the psychology behind why we love to see the big guy fall.  

BONUS, BONUS: An inside look at this year’s Sweet Sixteen, report card style! + How every Sweet Sixteen underdog can pull off the upset.

Let the madness continue.

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