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Everyone aiming for High Performance should at least have a look at Leadership lessons from the Olympics by Tom Scott in the Washington Post.

sochi figure skater lipnitskaiaThere are no end to the lessons leaders can learn from watching the performances and learning the stories of this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. Scott focuses on the following five:

1. Relish, don’t stress, the big moment.

I’m always amazed at how the world’s most outstanding Olympic performers approach their big moments. No one knows what’s going on inside, but their faces show fierce focus and unwavering determination. Olympic-class leadership demands the same steady approach to business challenges. No one wants to follow a leader with weak knees.

2. Failure equals opportunity.

After figure skater Evgeni Plushenko’s fall and back injury, it was clear that although he could not continue to compete at Sochi, he would be back. And back with a vengeance. How you as a leader handle defeat or loss either drives your employees to continue with doubled determination or not.

3. Capitalize on second chances.

Second chances are built into some Winter Olympic contests. Skiers and snowboarders, for example, run twice downhill, are scored twice, and are ranked by the better score. It’s inspiring to watch an athlete who does poorly on a first try then rises to a spectacular second run. At work, you don’t always get second chances, but when you do, let the bitter taste of your first failure drive you to greater heights.

4. Break barriers to achieve your goals.

snowboard crashScott reminds his readers of bobsledder Johnny Quinn, who found himself locked in his hotel bathroom before it was time for him to compete. Rather than resign himself to his fate, Quinn literally broke down the bathroom door in order to show up at his competition. Breaking barriers to success should be part of every organization’s mantra — a challenge from which you or any member of your team should never shrink.

5. Don’t forget the personal touch.

The final recommendation couldn’t more pointedly promote Leadership Intimacy. No matter how many skills leaders or athletes develop or how much knowledge they accrue, both will still fail or succeed depending on how well they manage personal relationships. When it comes to Olympic-class leadership, only an intimate understanding of those around you will enable you to personalize your approach with every employee and peer in order to engage their full potential and mobilize them to aligned, Olympic-class performance.

If you happen to be a member of the LinkedIn HR Talent Management Group, I invite you to visit and comment on my question What are the Winter Olympics teaching you about Talent Management?. As part of my ongoing research, I will collect your responses, analyze the results, and report to you with a paper on this topic.


Helanie Scott
Helanie Scott
Helanie (pronounced yeh-LAH-nee) Scott, CEO and founder of Align4Profit in Dallas, Texas, has driven stunning leadership and cultural transformations for an impressive list of organizations. She has mastered the ability to connect with her audiences in the boardroom, classroom, on stage, or in one-on-one coaching sessions. Helanie’s Align4Profit clients rave at the way her engaging programs freshen outdated mindsets and deliver results-oriented, aligned action.