5 Sports Books for Business Leaders

Getting the best out of your team is the same challenge for sports leaders as well as those in the corporate world. While there is no shortage of books from distinguished entrepreneurs such as Branson, Bannatyne, Sugar et al, there are a number of books from sporting leaders that can provide great insights into the process of developing winning teams and cultures.

Below are reviews of 5 sports-themed books that business leaders should read.

1. ‘Winning! The path to Rugby World Cup glory’ by Sir Clive Woodward

As a Scottish football fan, I wasn’t sure what initially enticed me to buy this book by the World Cup winning coach of the England rugby team. However, I have since recommended it to several people. Woodward was appointed England’s Head Coach not long after the sport turned professional and he set about implementing an infrastructure that would go on to help them win the 2003 World Cup.

‘Winning!’ outlines how he utilised his own rugby playing experience along with the business acumen that he gained in the corporate world to build the best team in the world. It describes his techniques for implementing world class standards of behaviour and how that laid the foundation for success.

2. ‘Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United’ by Sir Alex Ferguson

Arguably the greatest football manager in history, Sir Alex Ferguson teamed up with Michael Moritz, a Venture Capitalist and Author to share his experiences of leading multiple successful football sides. With a management career spanning 40 years, including 26 years of outstanding success with Manchester United, Sir Alex isn’t short of advice.

The book includes subjects associated with Ferguson’s managerial style: Discipline, Control, Teamwork and Motivation. But it also addresses subjects that are less obvious such as Delegation, Data Analysis and Dealing with Failure.

3. ‘Quiet Leadership: Winning Hearts, Minds and Matches’ by Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti has managed some of the world’s biggest footballing talents including Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo, Paolo Maldini, Zinédine Zidane, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham. He has employed a very democratic management style, possibly the best way to get success with so many big egos!

4. ‘Legacy’ by James Kerr

Think of consistently successful and iconic sports teams and there’s a good chance that New Zealand’s Rugby Union side will be on your list. In this best seller, James Kerr illustrates 15 leadership lessons by using anecdotes from All Blacks players and coaches. They explain how they learn to adapt to changing situations, how they prepare and how they live with the expectation that has been placed on them.

5. ‘Eleven Rings’ by Phil Jackson

The first lockdown in 2020 saw Joe Exotic and his big cats become stars in the Netflix series, ‘Tiger King’. However, the other Netflix hit at that time was ‘The Last Dance’, a docu-series going behind the scenes with the Chicago Bulls basketball team, focussing primarily on the players, particularly Michael Jordan, and his final season with the Bulls in 1997/98. As well as shining a light on the mega-stardom of Jordan, a light was shone on many of his teammates including Scotty Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Steve Kerr as well as the man who led them, coach Phil Jackson.

‘Eleven Rings’ is Jackson’s autobiography where he shares his secrets of management that allowed him to win the NBA championship 11 times (the winners get a ring, hence the book title). He describes how his (a that time) unconventional management techniques were inspired by his studies of Native American philosophy, Zen meditation, and other mindfulness teachings. Ultimately, he was able to bring out the best in a group of massive personalities.