Leadership lessons from soccer legend

Soccer is an extremely physically demanding sport and, arguably, the most challenging sport to play professionally–a bold statement, but it is true. Most athletes usually retire around the thirty-year mark, which biologically makes sense. If you are not the hardest worker in the room, you are just not capable of competing with the “youngsters.” However, there is one glaring exception: Ronaldo ​​Cristiano, aged 36 years old and a top-scorer in one of the hardest leagues in the world. 

Lesson 1: Work hard. At the age of 11, the Portuguese player ran away from the dormitory of the club where he was training. When he was in Turin, Ronaldo continued to work hard. Defender Medhi Benatia, then a teammate at Juventus, reported his surprise at Ronaldo’s momentum after one match. 

“When we arrived, everyone was wearing normal clothes, but he put on his shorts, music and went to the gym,” Benatia said. “Then I thought, ‘This guy is not normal.’”

It is no coincidence his frequency, consistency and intensity garnered him five France Football Golden Balls, proving hard work does pay off.

Lesson 2: Stay at the top. The second hardest thing to do after reaching the top of your profession is staying on top. 

In 2007, he won everything in Manchester and was voted best in the world, but it was not enough. He has remained among the top “at the peak” until today. There are dozens of soccer legends with incredible seasons, but hardly anyone has stayed at the top for so long. He is an example of dedication, focus and consistency. Despite being 36 years old, Ronaldo continues to surpass his own goals. 

The start of the 2020 season was the highest-scoring start of his career, with 10 goals in six games. At 36, he became the all-time leading scorer. Presently, he continues to follow his level of performance in England, at Manchester United and with the Portugal national team.

Lesson 3: Resilience is key. Resilience is the ability to adapt to different tricky situations. Controlling one’s emotions to persevere through challenging times is fundamental in both professional and personal life. In other words, talent and arduous work mean nothing before mental aptitude. No wonder Ronaldo claims his greatest ability is not his finishing, speed or dribbling; it is his mentality and focus.

Lesson 4: Search for new challenges. After winning the World Cup in England, Ronaldo sought new challenges. He went to Spain to rebuild Real Madrid, at the time, overshadowed by Guardiola’s Barcelona. It took years to beat the Catalans, but with Ronaldo, the team won the Champions League for the third time in a row, something unheard of in the Modern Era. At 33 years old, an age at which many athletes already consider retirement, he decided to attempt the feat once again in Italy, making history at Juventus. Despite losing the European tournament in Turin, Ronaldo scored 101 goals and 22 assists in 134 games, helping the club lift five trophies. After the venture, he returned to Manchester United to rebuild the club.

Lesson 5: Lead by Example. Ronaldo seems obsessed with individual titles. Many talk about Ronaldo, the leader that “encouraged his teammates in the Euro 2016 final,” but it is much more than that: he leads by example. Thus, the “Ronaldo Cristiano Effect” goes beyond the ability to score goals and make plays on the field. 

According to striker Douglas Costa, after CR7 arrived at Juventus, the squad’s body fat decreased because of the star’s influence. Ronaldo is much more than a great goal scorer and title winner; he extracts the best individuality from his teammates. Everyone wins. The lessons he brings go beyond the field, with various charitable actions and examples. Among them is the fact he does not have tattoos on his body because he habitually donates blood. If he had any design on his body, he would have to abstain from donating for a year.