Leicester City Football Club’s (LCFC) recent Premier League victory has the sports world talking. Such an achievement is unheard of in world football. Their victory is already being heralded by commentators as one of the greatest football achievements in history. According to, Graeme Souness, a Sky News sports commentator: “It’s up there with anything you want to name whether in the Premier League or old First Division.” Across the pond, Matt Vasulogambros with the Atlantic wrote:

In the world of overused sports tropes, declaring a victory “one of the biggest upsets in history” is a frequent sin. But in this case, this is the biggest upset in modern sports history.

Or, as Globe and Mail sports writer Cathay Kelly recently wrote, “Leicester winning the Premier League is the Toronto Marlies winning the Stanley Cup – but weirder. This is a one-legged man winning the Olympic 100-metre dash.” And yet despite its unlikeliness, they somehow managed to do it, just like you can manage a career-underdog-story. Here are three professional lessons from Leicester City Football Club.

Embrace your strengths

One key element of their success (ie. only losing 2 of the last 25 Premier League games this season) was to identify what they were good at and just stick with it. Leicester did that when they developed an effective, simple and aggressive tactical formation and then stuck with it. According to the Economist (and their fancy graphs) – Leicester displayed particular “tactical guile” with their ruthless swift counter-attacks. Finding an area of expertise, honing it to (near) perfection and then practicing it with to perfection is an effective approach any of us can follow.

Money isn’t everything

Manchester City spent 153 million pounds this year. Leicester City spent 26 million pounds. See a nifty breakdown of all the spending gaps here. For a long time everyone thought that sort of buying power was insurmountable. For years, it was. But Leicester City flipped it all on the head (hence the hilarity for bookies across England). We can all take this as inspiration when going up against a bigger, more wealthy opponent. Money matters. But it isn’t everything (just ask Jeb Bush’s residential campaign) and, from time to time, can be defeated by a combination  of hard-work, discipline and creative thinking. In the case of Leicester City, much of this creative thinking manifested itself in some great scouting where a variety of second string players were snapped up like Jonah Hill’s comment around the Oakland A’s collection of an “Island of misfit toys” in Moneyball. For our day to day careers, this is worth remembering as we look at the bigger players in the industry and yearn for their resources. If you’re marketing a locally produced soft-drink, feel confident that just because you don’t have the ad budget of Coke or Pepsi doesn’t mean you can’t make an impact. Same spirit goes for if you are a scrappy entrepreneur working in the start-up space.

Believe in yourself

At the beginning of the season, the odds for Leicester was 5000-1 that they’d win the Premier League. If the team had believed the bookies, they’d never have managed the stunning turn-around. But they didn’t. They won game after game and started building momentum. Even if you’re situation seems hopeless, persevere and keep your eye on the prize. You may be surprised with how your tenacity pays dividends later on.

 

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