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What Leaders are Learning

Leaders are Olympians

Leaders are Olympians

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. As the Summer Olympics get underway, it is appropriate to remember that leaders should always aim to model the Olympic spirit of pursuing excellence and never quitting. Of the 11,000 athletes participating in these games, most will not be Olympic medal winners but they are certainly all winners in life because they are role models to the rest of us on pushing the limit. Likewise, leaders in life may not be the best the world ever saw but that not should take away from them putting on their game face when called to lead and stretching for the finish line doing their best.

Of note, as History.com reports, “The first written records of the ancient Olympic Games date to 776 B.C., when a cook named Coroebus won the only event – a 192-meter footrace called the stade (the origin of the modern “stadium”) – to become the first Olympic champion.” Since the first Olympic flame was lit, the spirit of competition and leaving it all on the field of play has been held high. Alec McQuade, a sports reporter for NBC Charlotte recently opined on the beautiful Olympic spirit in a recent blog: “We will see 2016-summerthese athletes achieve amazing, unthinkable feats. We witness them living out their lifelong dream through years of hard work and determination. Yes, they rely on themselves, but also their coaches, teammates, and families who have helped them keep their dream alive. Best of all, they don’t let anyone tell them what they can and cannot do.”

Is that not analogous of what we expect of our leaders? Leaders need support but they also know they must aim for gold. A leader’s job is to overcome challenge and move the organization ahead. I would not put much trust in a leader who, if I asked them what they hoped to achieve, they told me it didn’t matter. Leaders should not blurt out, “Bronze is my goal.” No, leaders should always look to achieve gold for their followers – that is the contract when one agrees to lead. Leadership is always a choice. So is the goal to leave it all on the “leadership field.”
As we watch the Olympic flame flicker for the next two weeks, take a moment to reflect on whether that Olympic spirit of being the world’s best flickers in your own heart. It should, and if it does not, use the incredible moments we will all witness to remind us all that leaders are Olympians at heart. I still remember one of the most heralded of all Olympic moments when British athlete Derek Redmond at the 1992 Summer games tore his hamstring in the 400-meter semifinal but continued the race limping and, with assistance from his father, managed to reach the finish line as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Derek certainly did not medal and was listed as not finishing but he represented pure gold in all our hearts for not quitting, but seeking to finish for his country.

I have many events I enjoy watching during the competition but the one most emblematic of leadership is the high jump. Why do I suggest that? The high jump is one event where the athletes keeping jumping and jumping until they can jump no higher. Leaders need to have that same mindset – keep leading and leading until you can lead no better. That is the Olympic spirit that we all kindle within us. A powerful Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial on TV right now makes the case we all as humans have 0.2 milligrams of gold in our chemical make-up. Olympians are rare indeed in that they have capacity to dig out their own gold from within. I submit leaders should have the same Olympic spirit to always dig deep for gold for their followers. Leaders are Olympians.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well. ~ Pierre de Coubertin