Leadership Effectiveness: Inspirational Leadership

Leadership Effectiveness: Inspirational LeadershipHumans are interesting creatures. Sometimes we humans do things that are so special, they inspire others to be their best, to try something new, to think outside of the box, to push just that much harder, or to have courage to overcome a significant fear.

This year’s Winter Olympics has provided many examples of how amazing and inspiring people can be. Leaders can learn much from the Olympics, which they can apply to becoming more inspired and inspiring leaders.

Let’s take Lindsey Vonn, the American Alpine skier. Injuries caused her to miss parts of the 2013 and 2014 ski seasons and still, she came back. In my book she is a hero—and not even because she won the bronze, as she did this year, or any of her past medals and World Cups. Lindsey is an American hero because she has inspired so many to look beyond, push through, rebuild, and achieve greatness.

Canadian skier, Cassie Sharpe, gave a jaw-dropping performance in the ski halfpipe and won gold for her efforts. She was greatly inspired by a leader in her field—a woman who lobbied the IOC tirelessly to make women’s ski halfpipe an Olympic sport and, in addition, was a talented and fearless skier. She was the Canadian athlete, Sarah Burke. Due to Burke’s efforts, the sport debuted in 2014 in Sochi and her influence and presence are still palpable in the sport, six years after her death. Sharpe said of Burke: “I definitely feel her legacy in this team and in this sport… She was the pioneer for us to be in the Olympics … for us to be a part of it. She is always on our minds and is always with us” (Olympics-2018-Sharpe_Burke). Marie Martinod from France: the ski halfpipe silver medalist this year said she, “believes Burke would be beaming with pride at the sight of a Canadian on top of the Olympic podium in a sport she strived to promote. ‘Sarah is proud of me, I can tell you. She is with me and she is proud of me,’ said Martinod, who often dons stickers that pay tribute to Burke.” (Freestyle-skiing-burke-legacy-lives).

Nathan Chen, the American figure skater had a disastrous short program. He followed that up with a free skate in which he unexpectedly (to his coach and probably anyone else) did six (6!) quadruple jumps—more than anyone in Olympic history. He did not win a medal, yet he inspired us all by coming back from a significant setback, putting every ounce of himself into his effort, and going beyond what was expected. Nathan is 18-years-old.

And what can you say about the men’s figure skater gold medalist from Japan, Yuzuru Hanyu? He was practicing at a rink near the epicenter of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in 2011. He ran off the ice without even stopping to put blade guards on his skates. He was 16 at the time. Did he crumble and abandon the sport? No. He banded with other skaters to conduct a fund raiser for the disaster victims. In addition, despite injuries and surgery, he has come back to win gold. Twice.

What do they all have in common?

  • Diligence to practice—hours and hours, sometimes with significant challenges such as injuries and surgery, even tsunamis.
  • Courage to face significant obstacles and set-backs in performance, health, or finances.
  • Resilience to bounce back—more like work their way back—from those challenges and obstacles.
  • Humility to learn and try again and again and again.
  • While they are fiercely competitive, they have the generosity to cheer on their mates (whether from their country or not—Lindsey Vonn and Sofia Goggia) and share helpful information with those who are on their country’s team even if they are in competition (Lindsey Vonn and Alice McKennis).

Who is your most inspiring 2018 Olympian and what does that person teach you about leadership? What is the most inspiring moment from this year’s Olympics and how can you use that to improve your leadership effectiveness?

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