Research released by Elixirr reveals how both C-level and professional sportspeople achieve success in their fields, with both CEOs and professional athletes believing that being more mentally resilient than their competitors is the top driver of high performance.

While the physical requirements of elite athletes are revered and celebrated, the intangible demands of business leaders are less often recognised. Yet, both CEOs (94%) and professional sports players (99%) put a huge amount of pressure on themselves to succeed. As a result, they adopt similar tactics to strengthen their physical, mental and emotional fortitude.

The mentality of a high performer 

Developing a winning mindset is vital to becoming a high performer both in the boardroom and on the sportsfield. Just as matches can be won or lost on mental strength alone, boardroom decisions require mental fortitude. Interestingly, before a big meeting or competition, 100% of professional athletes and CEOs spend time mentally preparing, with CEOs most likely (27%) to spend between 16 and 20 minutes on average psyching themselves up for a meeting.

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With high stakes in the boardroom and on the court, game-changing decisions require mental fortitude. Unsurprisingly, the majority of sports players (87%) agree that prioritising mental strength and resilience gives them an edge over their competitors, although this drops to 63% of CEOs.

However, CEOs and athletes are not just committed to achieving success for themselves but for their teams as well. As a result, they value the importance of having a strong team surrounding them, with the majority of CEOs (92%) and athletes (98%) attributing some of their success to those around them.

The winning tactics of a high performer

To set themselves up for success, CEOs and sports players alike establish disciplined and robust training habits. Interestingly, both CEOs and professional athletes swear by pre-game rituals. While NBA champion Lebron James is known for his pre-game chalk clap, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, always starts his day at 3:45am. The majority (91%) of CEOs noted that they have a regular ritual which has helped them to achieve their goals, compared to 100% of professional sports players.

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Similarly, both CEOs and athletes practise the techniques required to make bold decisions during crucial moments. The likes of Lewis Hamilton and Leah Williamson are famed for being able to pivot and change their game plan when up against the clock. Successful CEOs also understand how critical flexibility is to success. Over three quarters (78%) of both CEOs and athletes feel confident pivoting and adopting a new approach if their strategy or ‘game plan’ isn’t going to plan during an important meeting or competition.

Stephen Newton, Founder and CEO of Elixirr, comments:

“It’s clear that high performance isn’t just the preserve of professional athletes. Determination, commitment and sacrifices are needed for successful CEOs and professional sports players alike, yet the intangible demands and accomplishments of business leaders are less often acknowledged. We recognise the preparation, the pressure and the responsibility that you don’t always see on the surface, because it’s those qualities that make it possible for successful CEOs to become bold business leaders who pioneer change on a real scale”.

Learn more about Elixirr

Methodology: The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 103 Athletes (defined as respondents who are paid to play competitive sports professionally) and 252 CEOs (of companies with at least 100 employees) The data was collected between 12.04.2023 – 17.04.2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.