"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, out there on the road, well before I dance under the lights".
He did not rely on the training he did for the previous fight, or what he learned before he was the champion of the world. He trained every day, he practised in the gym, he did the hard yards on the road - not just every now and again, but day after day.
It was not just about being "fit", it was about being toughened for battle. The sparring was to create the scenarios he was going to face in the ring in advance of getting there.
The training and the sparring was all about creating and understanding the process of winning. The preparation was all about creating every scenario imaginable in advance so that there was a clear process embedded in his brain that gave him the route to follow when events unfolded in the ring, rather than trying to figure out what to do next.
As leaders, do we put in the same amount of training and preparation for the daily battle? Why not? Are we that good that we don't need to prepare? I don't think so.
But how do we prepare like Ali to be leaders?
Are we students of leadership - in other words do we read about the new thinking and development in this area? Have we identified the areas where we are weak and do something about it? Are we working with a coach or a mentor who is expert in this space?
If you are not doing any of these things, then you are relying upon your "old" thinking and you are definitely not "match fit"!
The role of leaders is becoming increasingly demanding. Demands are greater now to produce more with less. Shareholders are looking for quicker returns, and your people are looking for true leaders, not just a job and a salary cheque.
If you are not continuously redefining and sharpening your leadership skills, you will not have the right instincts of response when you need them most.
Prepare and train - don't rely on what you learned previously. Relying upon that will never get you to peak performance!!