How to be a gold medal leader

19 August 2016 -


With Team GB riding high in Rio, we take a look at what managers can learn from our Olympic heroes

Guest bloggers Mandy Flint and Elisabet Vinberg Hearh

Team GB’s success at the Olympics has certainly been fantastic. And that kind of success doesn’t happen without leadership.

Self-leadership in each athlete is vital; the ability to motivate oneself to go practicing every day, regardless of mood or weather – and to pick oneself up and brush oneself off when failing.

There’s no gold medal that hasn’t been preceded by all of that.

Coaching leadership is also of major importance and it happens at both an individual and a team level. A great coach sees each person and is able to bring out the best in them, encouraging and helping them to want to do their best, and keep getting better – helping to bring out self-leadership in each athlete.

Now, it’s EXACTLY the same at work.

Gold medal leaders are what every organisation wants to have. And there’s a lot we can learn from sports when it comes to leadership and performance.

With that in mind, here are some strategies for becoming a gold medal leader at work:

Be a CEO, a Chief Enabling Officer. Remove unnecessary hurdles and obstacles; make it easy for employees to focus on their work. If there are too many distractions, people won’t be as productive – it’s as simple as that.

Get to know and understand each person you lead. Talk to them, ask questions, listen and observe. Recognise what they are best at and build on that. Focus on their strengths and how to make those strengths even stronger. Understand what makes them tick – and make them tick. Make them want to go that “extra mile”.

Set goals and create plans with your employees. Agree together what should be achieved and how to get there – keeping in mind that the exact route to the goal may be different for different people. Whenever possible (unless industry regulations restrict it), allow employees to do their job the way they do it best.

Follow up regularly, coach and give feedback. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. With the awareness of what someone does well and could do better, they can turn that into learning and do it even better. Remember that no one is best at everything. A sports gold medalist couldn’t be a winner in all sports at the same time – and it’s the same at work. Help employees to focus their efforts to become truly outstanding at what they do.

Raise the bar by continuously getting the person to believe they can do more than they ever imagined. Do it step by step, keep raising that bar. Don’t let people become complacent, keep them striving for more. Remove the invisible limit employees put on themselves, where they think “this is as far as I can go”.

Realise that as a leader your job is to bring people up to your level and beyond (not just keep people where they are). Leadership is not about creating followers, but creating more leaders/achievers.

Be the best leader you can be by using what’s best in you (be authentic). Keep building your own leadership, continuously improving your performance – be a role model for learning and development, which encourages others to do the same.

Create trust, by letting your employees know at all times, that you have their best interest – to succeed – at heart. Continue to build trust by being honest and transparent, always playing with open cards.

And finally, don’t give up!

What all gold medal leaders have in common is that they don’t give up. They don’t let setbacks stop them.

They use the power and the feedback of the setback to find new strategies forward. They value the silvers and the bronzes too – and they use them to propel them onwards and upwards.

So stay focused, go the distance, and never give up on that goal.

Mandy Flint and Elisabet Vinberg Hearn wrote the award-winning book Leading Teams – 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions (FT Publishing) is available to buy now on Amazon

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