Olympic Leadership Lessons

Olympic Leadership Lessons


The XXXII Summer Olympics are upon us…and like everything else in the past 16 months, these Games are unlike any other. I love the Olympics when the world‘s greatest athletes come together to compete for the highest honor in armature sports.


I had the good fortune to attend the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal Canada and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Two decades apart and many lessons learned from both.


In 1976 I had never been more than 600 miles from my hometown in Florida. There I was in Montreal, where the primary language was French!  People from around the globe were gathered wearing their national colors, speaking their native languages. I remember meeting people from Mongolia, Singapore, Russia, and Turkey. What an experience! The universal language was a smile. My eyes were opened that the world is a big place with so many different points of view, yet the common denominator can be a smile and desire to do their best for their nation.


In 1996 in Atlanta, we saw US sprinter Michael Johnson become the world’s fastest man. The stadium was electric. We saw Kerri Strug the US gymnast finish a final vault on an injured ankle to lead the US gymnastic team to a Gold medal. But the event that stays with me was the Women’s 10,000-meter race. The Italian woman had been lapped many times by the elite runners, but she never stopped. All the other entrants had finished and yet this woman continued to run, mile after mile, determined to represent her country and finish what she started. On her final lap, the 85,000 stadium attendees were on their feet cheering her on. When she crossed the finished line, the crowd went wild.


Here are the leadership lessons from the Olympics:

  • Stay curious and challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone
  • Be open to different points of view, there are lots of different ways to get things done
  • A smile can open hearts and minds and neutralize fears of the unknown
  • Practice is the work, competition is the result
  • Dig deep and do what your TEAM needs to succeed
  • Finish what you start, even if you are last, don’t quit


Go USA!!!


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