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Focus on these things to succeed in Executive Leadership / General Management

Leadership Lessons from the Game of Poker



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The game of poker is one of the most popular card games out there, but not exactly a trivial and undemanding entertainment. Yes, it’s true that the straightforward rules are easy to follow, and you can learn how to play with minimum effort, but to play it well takes special skills, specific predispositions and even character. It is a form of art that can offer a lot of valuable lessons, which can be applied to the leadership knowledgebase, and even business in general.


I don’t know if poker players would make perfect leaders every time as there are more factors involved and more issues to be considered in being an effective leader. What should be unquestionable though, is the fact that poker players, if they truly want to accomplish something of importance in their profession, have to possess the kinds of qualities that are also considered desired assets in good leadership as well. The connection is clear, even on the highest level; just think how many U.S. presidents in the 20th century were admirers of the game, and good at it, too. We’re talking about leaders of the free world who possess the same qualities of successful poker players. That has to stand for something.


Although it may very well be called otherwise, or people might not recognize it at all, experience in poker is a good way to learn emotional intelligence, which is crucial when working with others and even more so when supervising a group of workers. At the tables, you not only learn how to read your opponents, but you also need to know how to assess your own abilities, needs and state of mind. Good leaders should start by identifying their own strong and weak suits.


Even realizing our mood or feelings at given moment could help us filter them appropriately and react differently in the long run, which is the only way to manage things and people. This is also a perfect start to improving how you read others. In poker, you would look for special signs, so-called “tells”, to help you figure out your rival’s game. It is a reminder that listening and observing is not the same as simply not speaking in a given moment, and passively waiting for the queue to finally do something. Instead, it is about taking the time to notice all the important things and paying attention to more than just words, particularly body language and the way words are being said. If that isn’t the exact basis that the whole concept of emotional intelligence stands on, I don’t know what is. Furthermore, a better understanding of its intricacies could mean a better understanding of others as well as your own issues, including having a better insight of the true roots of the problems, seeing past sentiments and focusing on the merits, which will help you to gain the confidence and trust from subordinates and so on.


As you can see, useful inspiration can come in many forms, even the game of poker. To benefit from it, however, you don’t necessarily have to become a mastermind who eliminates every opponent and wins tons of money, but you do have to pay attention to what’s going on around you so that it won’t hurt you. One thing is for certain though, you can learn some important skills from playing poker, or any other similar activity, that could ultimately help you to develop some desirable qualities including strong leadership skills.


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