4 Leadership Traits Shared by Successful Quarterbacks and CEOs

A leader succeeds or falls short based on the capacity to inspire their team and make the tough decisions under pressure.

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By Mike Kafka

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This column is part of a series formed from a partnership between Entrepreneur and NFL Players Inc. Click here to see the other columns

A football team is a business enterprise with the quarterback at the helm. I attribute my success and desire to start my own company, while playing in the NFL, to my experiences and growth as a quarterback. Actually, quarterbacks and entrepreneurs have a lot in common. Based on my experiences in the NFL and running my own business, I've identified four traits leaders in the boardroom and leaders on the field share that help make them successful.

1. They ignite the team.

A quarterback's leadership is essential to the success of every offensive play. Each quarterback has his own way of leading his team. Some lead with an iron fist, and demand respect from their teammates. Others lead by being very personable and taking a vested interest in every single teammate. Most lead by example. They show the team or organization, through their actions, how to motivate people and develop a culture that is conducive to success. Words mean very little, actions and results matter.

Similarly, each CEO is responsible for leading his/her team down the field to success. An effective CEO inspires all levels of an organization to work together toward a common goal.

Related: You Have the P.O.W.E.R. to Start a Business While Working Your Day Job

2. They are excellent time managers.

Good time management is important to playing the quarterback position. In a football game, timing is everything -- the timing of a throw, the timing of a play, the game clock and play clock; even the quarterback's cadence is timed! I believe that time management is an art. It is like being the conductor in an orchestra, perfectly timing each aspect of the performance.

Likewise, successful CEO's must manage time well and take it very seriously. When building Roo Outdoor, while still playing football, I dedicated certain hours of my day to my business while the rest was spent in practice, studying and workouts. I organized my day to accomplish the more creative tasks early and to complete the most time sensitive objectives first. In a market where trends are constantly changing it is important to develop a way to execute top priorities, without getting stretched too thin or moving off track.

Related: How Getting the Timing Right Can Help You Hire the Best

3. They know their competition.

Quarterbacks are known for being methodical in their preparation. They are frequently the first to arrive at the facility and the last to leave, spending extra hours watching film and preparing for the next opponent. Every detail matters to a quarterback. Studying exotic personnel groups, different down and distance situations, as well as multiple defensive tendencies, are just a few of the film cut-ups I study regularly as a NFL quarterback. I do this every week for each team. I have watched an opponent's entire season just to understand their defensive scheme.

Similarly, the best CEO's are focused on the details of their market, especially their company's advantage over competitors. They know the ins-and-outs of their business -- R&D, product, customers and financials. They study the granular details to recognize growth opportunities and potential new markets.

Related: Knowing Your Competition Inside and Out

4. They are great decision makers.

Despite everything that goes on behind the scenes, quarterbacks are mainly judged on the decisions they make on Sundays. During each play they are given a set of reads and progressions to execute. With only a split-second to decide, the quarterback is responsible for making these decisions correctly, time after time, while 300-pound linemen are running after them. It is when quarterbacks deviate from the reads or progressions that usually gets them in trouble.

CEOs are required to make decisions, both easy and difficult, all the time. Much like a quarterback, a CEO has to trust his/her preparation and judgment. In my opinion, the ability to make swift and decisive decisions is the most important quality for a quarterback or CEO because those calls can make or break you.

At the end of the day it takes a special kind of person to be a quarterback and a CEO. In addition to leadership, time management, competitor knowledge and decision-making, it takes passion, dedication and a desire to be great! You don't have to be a quarterback to be a CEO. You don't have to be a CEO to be a quarterback, but if you concentrate on these four traits you will be well equipped for success.

Related: How Can I Market to Decision-Makers?

Mike Kafka

NFL Quarterback and Founder/CEO of Roo Outdoor

This author is part of a series formed from a partnership between Entrepreneur and NFL Players Inc. Click here to see the other columns.

Mike Kafka is a professional quarterback in the NFL and founder/CEO of Roo Outdoor, an active lifestyle brand specializing in outdoor gear and performance apparel. Kafka leads all business and product development activities, including strategic planning, marketing and outreach, and distributor acquisition. This past November, Roo Outdoor launched a Kickstarter campaign to introduce the patent-pending Inferno Series Hand Pouch. Kafka's leadership, dedication and attention to detail have positioned Roo Outdoor to exceed projected goals and thrive in the outdoor and sporting goods markets.


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