What Olympics Can Teach Us About Leadership?

Olympic Runners

You have probably heard of the famous quote by Vince Lombardi concerning his opinion on winning.

It goes like this:

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

On Winning and Leadership

Of course we all want to win; be it in daily life or in the Olympics. When one is training for the Olympics it takes a lot of effort, hours of training and discipline to prepare for the game or event in which one is trying to compete.  

This is evident from LeBron James or Michael Phelps.

See What’s LeBron James’ Secret to Success?  

See  Michael Phelps Regimen in Training 

On Losing the Gold

So these are two examples of medal winners.

But what happens when you train, put in all the effort but yet miss the medal by few nanoseconds. 

  • Does that mean you have lost?
  • Are you not good for competing again?
  • Are you not capable of winning?
  • Have you really lost.

If you are an Olympic participant who had put in a lot of effort and trained and followed the same regimen as Michael Phelps and yet didn’t win a medal/

You ask yourself “The What Ifs,” and “The What-Might-Have-Beens.”

You go through a dozen other negative emotions that will haunt you on your journey home and much thereafter.

Losing at Your Own Best Game

Each of us go through these moments in our life. Imagine you have worked hard on winning a deal for your Company.

  • You put in hours of late nights
  • You cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s
  • You leave no stone un-turned

And yet you lose the deal to your competitor. Damn!

I was touched by a recent story that was reported in the Washington Post about a girl from Afghanistan, a war-ravaged country, who trained in a dilapidated stadium, and one who couldn’t afford elite sprinter’s footwear, but competed in the Olympics.

She didn’t win the medal, BUT she showed more strength than any weightlifter and much more stamina than a gold medal swimmer or marathoner or athlete or Ironman.

Iron Young Lady

Her story For the taxi driver who humiliated her, the men who heckled her, and the father who supported her:

 What does this girl teach us about Leadership ?

1. Your effort is what matters, you give it to your best shot, you know from your within that you did everything possible within your control.

2. Everything in life has a Yin and Yang, so for someone to win, another has to lose. Real loss in when you didn’t put in your best effort and you made excuses for not putting your best foot forward.

3. The craze to win makes many to adopt strategies that derail and destroy the franchise value of the organization or the integrity of the individual.

4. This girl though she set out to win was happy with what she had achieved. She did not allow time pressure, hardships back at home, the competitive pressure affect her performance. She came a long way and she led by example and inspired many a girl who is living under similar circumstances.

5. She showed positive attitude, courage of her convictions and the discipline to do what is important to her and to her country and many other women in her country. To me she has displayed traits of a True Leader through her behavior and her actions.

6. She didn’t play victim though she came from a very difficult background. She did not make excuses and that shows a true quality of a leader.

Each of us are born with a lot of Positive Potential and genius but some choose to die in mediocrity. Leadership is about having steadfast faith in your vision and persistent confidence in your power to make a positive change. This girl exactly achieved that and won a true medal not only for her but for many a woman and human being who is trapped in similar situations.

Winning isn’t everything!


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Lalita Raman
Lalita Raman
is CEO of Transitions Intl Ltd

She serves her clients as Executive Coach, Business Coach & Consultant
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter |  Web | Blog 

Image Sources: usatoday.com


One response to “What Olympics Can Teach Us About Leadership?

  1. I agree! I recently published a post, ‘To Win or Not to Win’, about how I believe it is the journey, the choices made along the way, the strength of character it takes o get up every day and to keep trying that should be celebrated, just as much, if not more, than the actual win.


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