Free-market capitalists (yes there are still many of us unabashedly proud ones left) would all agree that competition is good. Competition between rivals is certainly good for consumers, but it is also good for companies too. Of course, if we are targets of that competition is can be unnerving, but there are clear advantages that leaders can capitalize on.

For leaders, the advantages of good competition include more urgency, clarity, and significance.

Urgency…competition adds alacrity to initiatives. The results of initiatives needed are not for some hypothetical future, they are for a practical present. Leaders can use this to add genuine and positive pressure for tangible results and completion of improvements.

Clarity…competition adds validation that what the company is doing is valuable. If there is no competition it means that the company may have moved too fast or stayed too late. There is currently little (true) competition for vacations in outer space. Likewise, there are not a ton of old-timey washboard makers. (In fact, I saw a piece on TV that there is only one left that mainly caters to country musicians.) A number of competitors is a clear sign of opportunity.

Significance…competition makes the stakes higher. What leaders decide to work on (or choose to ignore) has amplified importance. People like working on important things and knowing that they are making a difference.

Rivalries make for the most entertaining games, whatever the sport. Rivalries bring out the best in people—they try harder and prepare better. New, big competition can seem a little scary, but as any good coach knows, it is through strong competition that people really get to see what they are made of.