When you are fighting for national pride, backing down is not an option. But how do you turn the pressure into grit when the stakes are so high?

South Africa is an especially passionate sporting nation. As we are all aware, Madiba used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to bring unity to galvanise the rainbow nation. This is a particularly demanding legacy for the team to uphold. With the impending 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, the Springboks have been drawn to play their long-time adversaries, the mighty All Blacks, in the pool round.

Because the All Blacks and Springboks have both been drawn to play in the same pool, it places additional pressure on the Springbok team to perform optimally from the start if they want to increase their chances of advancing beyond the quarter final.

As business leaders, I’m sure we can relate to the high stakes of building your business in the tough economic environment we face today. I believe the following three points to be essential when coaching a winning culture both in sport and in business:

Setting direction with short- and long-term goals

When your goal is for the longer term, it is easy to allow the urgent to take priority over the important. And without a plan in place with measurable short-term goals, it is unlikely that you will reach your long-term goal. It is incumbent on you as the leader to make sure that the team stays focused on the end-goal.

Transferring skills and knowledge

As a sports coach, you have no choice but to perform through others. Your role is to empower your team to perform optimally both as individuals and as a team. In business, I know we will do well to adopt this principle. If you couldn’t play, if you had to trust your team to go out there on their own, would you not make sure they are prepared as well as possible? In other words, ensure that they are fully equipped with both the means and ability to contribute optimally and then hold them accountable for their performance. When you are a leader, your skills have to become your team’s skills if you want sustainable performance and goal-achievement.

Inspiring with a common purpose

When you are faced with a gruelling challenge, preparing can’t just be about winning – it can’t be just about achieving the goal (the what). There has to be a greater purpose to pull you through – it is the why that inspires. The Springboks are very aware that they carry the dreams and hopes of many South Africans on their shoulders when they go out onto the field. They have the opportunity to inspire a nation every time they play a game. This is what they need to hold on to as they prepare. As a leader, you have to constantly help your team connect their purpose to the company’s purpose – your reason for being – to help them step up to the plate when the terrain gets tough.

If you as a leader focus on setting direction, empowering your team and inspiring them to connect their purpose to the company purpose, chances are far greater that you will achieve your target. And even if you don’t, having given it your all, you can leave the proverbial field with your head held high, knowing you gave it your best. There is no shame in that.

This article was first published by Leadership Online and is republished here with permission.

*Brian Eagar is the founder and CEO of TowerStone, a leadership centre that empowers leaders to build a values-driven culture for sustainable success.