Leadership Lessons from the Olympics

Susan S Freeman Blog

Leadership OlympicsI admit to being hooked on the Olympics.    The four year global experience is one of my favorites, especially the winter games.  Is anyone else suffering from Olympic fatigue like I am?  Tired from staying up way too late to watch the nightly Olympic prime time line-up?  (I don’t watch the Internet updates during the day so I am actually surprised when I see who wins 10-12 hours later).   I love the grandeur on a global scale.  I admit to being drawn to the human interest stories where athletes overcome exceptional circumstances.   We witness them having prevailed to make it to the games, some even make it to the podium.  What I also notice is that they demonstrate extraordinary leadership qualities on top of their athletic skills.

Here are my top five leadership lessons from the inspiring young Olympians:

1.      Connect to purpose

Olympians are a special breed.   Many demonstrated strong interest in their sport of choice from an early age.  They seem to have an innate yearning to express purpose through athletics.  Connecting to that purpose and care is what powered them through the setbacks, physical pain, rigorous training, and losing at times.

2.      Deeply personal goals

Although some long for the podium, for others simply qualifying and sharing the Olympic experience is enough.  Some are doing it to honor loved ones, both living and no longer living.  What strikes me is the wide range of goals that are motivating enough to produce the kind of rigorous and painful training required by Olympians.  Winning a bronze or silver four years ago propelled many athletes to work harder, sharpen their own edges, and train differently with an eye towards becoming the best of the best.  The size of the goal doesn’t matter; just that it is a stretch enough to be motivating.

3.      Mental mastery matters

Watching the athletes before competition gives insight into how important the mental game is to their performance.      Many had their eyes closed, and were “moving their bodies” through a mock track, run, or program just prior to the competition.   Rehearsing through visualization is a powerful aid to success under pressure.  The top performers were centered, relaxed and breathing deeply before their trials.  They focused on getting into the deeply relaxed zone in the body and mind; this made all the difference between the winners and losers

4.      Resilience prevails

The Olympics showcases the incredible power of the human spirit to prevail through resilience.

We have seen medalists who had lost a parent, grandparent or sibling within the last year.  Medalists who triumphed after wipe-out accidents at 80 mph on a downhill slope and nine surgeries.  Medalists who had won Silver in Vancouver then receiving the Gold in Sochi.  Every one of them demonstrated resilience; that quality of bouncing back no matter what.

5.      No one does it alone

It takes a village.  Not one of the competitors could have made it the Olympic level without a team of support.  Look at the enthusiasm, passion and care on the faces of the parents, spouses, and siblings.  The athletes are doing their job; the support team is doing an equally important job too.

We invite you to share your comments about Olympic Leadership Lessons here.

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