Posted on: February 13th, 2017 by Jen Mueller

You know you’re leadership material and now you want to work at developing your leadership skills so that everyone else sees your potential.

Before we go any further, I need to ask a question. Does the idea of a four-hour workweek sound appealing to you? If so, this might be just want you need to hear – although probably not what you want to hear.

Here’s the deal, you can have all the talent and potential in the world, you can step up in big moments, but you can’t really hone your leadership skills unless you’re willing to own the time in between the big moments. Let’s borrow an example from sports.

Developing Your Leadership Skills Through Sports Talk

Technically, this is a slow time of year for football players. The NFL season is over. Training Camp won’t start until late July. The players will have a handful of mini- camp practices and workouts to attend, but for the most part their schedule is clear – except it isn’t. This is the time of year they’re able to make the biggest strides in improving for next year.

Heck, Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady says he will work out all season. Players know off-season work is what yields big results in the fall, and can lead to increased responsibilities and larger roles as Seahawks Pro Bowl cornerback  Richard Sherman explained:

“In sports you put extra time in the gym on the field, and it shows. It always shows. Hard work is never quiet. You can see a guy work all summer and he goes out there [in Training Camp] and it’s not like you’re going to say, ‘Oh he didn’t do anything this summer.’ It shows. It’s shows if you worked hard. It shows if you’re dedicated to your craft and if you put in the hours and put in the work.”

There are no four-hour workweeks here folks.

There’s no substitute for actually doing the work and embracing the grind.

It’s how NFL players get noticed and work into larger roles. It’s also the way you can go about developing your leadership skills.

Look, gearing up for big moments (like game day) and obvious opportunities (like a large-scale project) is easy, but it’s the time between those moments where you can gain an edge. Applying the same level of concentration and effort to the “in between” times takes discipline. Not everyone does it. But there’s a benefit to consistent effort: “I stay ready so I don’t have to get ready,” as Seahawks Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor would say.

Leaders lead all the time. Good leaders don’t pick and choose when they want to lead. Developing your leadership skills should start in the time “in between” all the big moments.  Show your colleagues you take the little things seriously and they’ll begin to see that you have the capability to handle big moments.

So here’s the question for you: What do you need to focus on “in between” your next big opportunities?

Recommendation: Use the football off-season to set a goal and chart your progress. Set the end date around the end of July when Training Camps open and work backwards when setting your check-in points using key NFL dates like the Combine, Draft, and your team’s mini-camp in June. It’s another way sports provides real-time accountability and helps you in developing your leadership skills.

I’ve got an entire website full of ways to make sports useful in business. Visit and sign up to get a sports cheat sheet delivered to your inbox every Monday with a list of sports topics to use in small talk during the week.

Jen Mueller, America’s Expert Talker, serves as the sideline radio reporter for the Seattle Seahawks and is a member of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast. She founded Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and advocates using sports conversations as a business tool and in developing your leadership skills. Hire Jen for an outside-the-box approach to business communication: