We’re close to the end of the group round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and so far it’s been a fascinating competition. Some big names have tasted defeat while others have enjoyed success which most couldn’t predict. We’ve even seen a few new records being made and of course, some superb goals. Not to mention, this edition of the World Cup has introduced technology in the form of VAR (Video Assistant Referee). Innovation is everywhere!

Sure, the beautiful game of football is spectacular to watch. The emotions, the drama, the intensity of each game is often overpowering and truly entertaining. However, there’s much more that we can extract from the World Cup. For me, aside from all the glamor and high quality football, the World Cup presents many management and leadership lessons that we can acquire. After all, the World Cup is all about competition, strategies, talent management and of course succeeding. What better place to learn from than this, right?

So, here are five leadership lessons that I extracted from the 2018 World Cup so far.

1. Know Your Strengths (And Weaknesses)

Overestimating what you’re capable of can really hamper your ability to perform. It’ll, in fact, seriously hurt your chances of winning. Know your strengths, however, more importantly be aware of your weaknesses. Going into their big game against Argentina, Iceland had a clear idea of what they were up against – a great football team with one of the greatest footballer leading them, Lionel Messi. They knew how tough the competition was. Hence, they didn’t try to overplay their game or overestimate what they could possibly achieve. Instead, they stuck to what they were truly capable of – defending. Iceland knew attacking wasn’t their strength, in fact they were weak at it. Hence, they played a defensive game that won them the ability to draw the match. Sure, they didn’t win, however a draw against such a big football team was no loss.

In the business world it’s important to not only know what your strengths and capabilities are, but also what your weaknesses are. And then, transforming your weakness into your strengths is what’ll enable you to overcome tough challenges.

2. Focus on the Purpose

Players go into the World Cup knowing it’s their opportunity to shine and showcase their talent, capabilities, and skills. And that’s what precisely what most players do. In an attempt to be recognized as a star and be recruited by the numerous football clubs that are out scouting talent, they’ll play the game for themselves. However, succeeding in the World Cup requires more than just personal abilities and ambitions. It’s about a purpose that’s larger than each individual’s personal aspirations. And that purpose is defined by the pride for their country. In the World Cup you’re not playing for yourself. You’re playing for your country, a purpose that’s larger than you. In many World Cups we’ve seen some big countries fail even with high profile footballers. And that’s because they aren’t playing the game united under a common purpose.

The same happens much too often in the business world where star performers and high potential talent are working to achieve their career aspirations. Without a unified purpose to aim for, every employees’ contributions are scattered all across the company with little success that the company can boast about. A single unifying, larger than each individual purpose is what everyone should be striving for.

3. Agility Is Imperative

Relying on your most trusted player and strategy could work for a while, however, soon enough you’ll drain that approach. Your opponent isn’t walking out on the football field without doing their homework. They’ve studied your players, your strategies, your reactions and your behaviors. They know you all too well. Hence, if you’re going to approach each game with the same strategy and the same players you’re going to end up being complacent and quite predictable to your opponents. The result? They’ll capitalize on your complacency and defeat you.

Football is a dynamic and fast-paced game, a game that requires innovative, creative and agile thinking. It’s much like today’s business world of rapid changes. If you’re going to operate with the same business strategies year after year, you’re going to get complacent and left far behind your competitors. For your business to succeed, you need agility, nimbleness and fluidity to be able to maneuver and adapt to rapid changes.

4. Make Tough Decisions

Every World Cup has taught us that to ensure your team succeeds you need to make tough and big decisions. Whether it’s benching a star, changing the formation half way through the game or placing tremendous trust (and pressure) on a young talent, tough decisions need to be made and made promptly. After Germany lost to Mexico, they returned for their second match without 3 of their star players (Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil and Sami Kedhira). They won a crucial match against Sweden with relatively younger, unseasoned players. And when Nikola Kalinic, Croatia’s star striker, refused to be benched at the start of their match against Nigeria, he was sent home. Obviously, the coach had strategic reasons behind his decision to not start the well reputed striker, however, because of his disrepute, he now isn’t part of the team. That’s a tough call for the leader (coach).

Today’s rapidly changing business world requires no less from leaders. Tough and big decisions need to be made promptly and without any doubt. Of course, you’ll have second-guessers, however, you need to stand your ground if you’re looking out for the best interest of the company and if you’re really looking to grow exponentially.

5. Flexibility and Adaptability

You could walk out to the football with a great game plan, a solid lineup and with all the enthusiasm that champions are made of, however, you truly can’t predict things will go as planned. There could be injuries that you didn’t expect. Sometimes referees make bad decisions that can hurt your game or even cause your strategies to be derailed. To add to that, it could start raining, and though football games go on in the rain, it can impact your game play. Coaches and players need to be flexible and adaptive to changes and external impacts. You can’t approach the game with a tunnel vision.

The same can be said in the office where leadership shakeups and employee turnover can seriously impact your ability to meet your goals. There are other environmental, societal, political and even technological conditions and situations that can adversely impact your strategies. As a leader you need to be prepared for these. Remaining flexible and adaptive to rapid and unexpected changes will allow you to always remain on course to success.

Are there other leadership lessons that you extracted from the World Cup which you found useful? Do share them in the comments below.