“Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee”. This is how the legend Muhammad Ali lived his life both inside and outside the boxing ring. As a pugilist par excellence and a public figure who made a tremendous social impact, he has inspired millions with his approach to the sport and life. For a leader, there are some valuable lessons to be learned from this legend’s life and times.

Vision guides execution

Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.

Vision is what separates the boys from the men! To lead, you need to know where you are going. Leaders need to have the ability to develop and communicate a vision that inspires people to give their best and make that vision a reality. Great leaders have changed the fortunes of companies, the state of countries and the outcomes of wars with a strategic unhinged vision.

Attention to detail

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.

It’s often the little things that add up to the difference between winning and losing. Successful leaders will tell how they spend that extra 10 minutes on a proposal or going over that pitch one more time or being obsessive about the quality checks. Leadership is not an acquired skill, it is a way of life. As painful as it may come across, leaders obsess over the details and don’t compromise over a single detail.

Balance art & science

The man who has no imagination has no wings.

We live in a data-driven world, and that’s a good thing. But it is important to not get lost in the numbers. Data helps assess historical patterns and as-is state, while imagination helps to visualize the possibilities and potential outcomes of decisions. Therefore, it is important for leaders to find a balance between facts and instincts to make informed decisions.

Persevere for greatness

If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.

From the outside leadership looks glamorous and easy. On the inside leadership are all grit and perseverance. Successful leaders spend a good portion of their days, months and years shouldering crises, winning almost impossible deals, leading people to achieve unprecedented results and pulling off miracles when the chips are down. All this comes from a place deep within, where there is an endless reservoir of perseverance and will to succeed and achieve greatness.

Believe in yourself

I’m the best. I just haven’t played yet.

There is a thin line between arrogance and self-belief. Arrogance is assuming to be the best without the ability or skills while self-belief is about having the confidence to deliver outcomes and thereby be the best. Muhammad Ali’s record speaks volumes about his self-belief. It comes from hours spent on honing skills, training the body and mind and the passion to succeed. Self-belief can make the impossible seem like a walk in the park!

Act with purpose


It’s not the action that makes a thing right or wrong, but the purpose behind the action.

A purpose is what makes the difference between a job and a career, between the mundane and the extraordinary and between existing and living. When you spend eight hours every day with a purpose to make an impact, then success is imminent. Then everything you do is directed towards a grander vision and everybody starts subscribing to that vision. The purpose is not just about work, it is about how you live your life.

Think about it; here I am writing about leadership based on words spoken by another person. And not just me, in the past week, millions have reflected on his greatness and mourned his loss. That’s the kind of legacy to leave behind; one that doesn’t fade…only grows stronger with time! I want to close by saying, ‘’Leadership is an inside job…you can change what’s outside if you can change what’s inside!’’

R.I.P Muhammad Ali!

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