Phelps, Bolt and Kohistani

Phelps and Bolt are world famous Olympians. They are incredible athletes who are the best ever at what they do. They’ve shown us some leadership qualities such as drive, commitment, and focus but I have no way of knowing if they are leaders or not. One of my required measurements of being a leader is the number of disciples the leader has released into the world. To be the best Phelps, Bolt and so many other Olympians have had to focus on themselves. This isn’t bad or wrong but it isn’t a quality of a great leader.

Tahmina Kohistani is a name I came across in Friday’s USA Today editorial as I flew home from San Diego. She is a sprinter from Afghanistan. An Olympian who has also shown some of the same qualities as Phelps and Bolt but she is far from being the best of the best in her sport. Nevertheless I suspect she is a leader.

I could be wrong about her leadership qualities but Kohistani has trained and run in the face of life threatening adversity. Apparently there have been lots of obstacles placed in her way as a woman and yet she has competed. After coming in last in her prelim race she quietly proclaimed through her tears, “I just opened a new window, a new door, for the next generation of my country.”

Kohistani wasn’t just focused on herself, she was also thinking of the other girls and women in her community that will become even greater athletes than herself. I believe that’s what great leaders do. – BB

Olympians and Leaders Need To Inspire

The London 2012 Olympics are in full swing. I’m watching as much of the 30th Olympiad as possible. It is a joy to watch these amazing athletes.

It’s intriguing to note that there are given countries, which aren’t perennial gold medal power houses like China, the USA or Russia, which excel at a given sport and have done so for decades. Usain Bolt is lightning fast but he isn’t the first Jamaican to speed down the track and he won’t be the last. If I say Ethiopia you should be thinking marathon running. The Turks know how to wrestle. Indonesians seem to consistently play badminton better than anyone else and Canada plays ice hockey. (Sorry, national pride forced me to stick that in there.)

Perhaps there is something in the local water which causes one part of the world to do well every four years on the world stage. Doubtful but what I think it signifies is that there are badminton players in Indonesia who have witnessed others excel at this sport. Others have set the example.  In 2012 there are children watching the current crop of champions from their home nation. Many of these youngsters will be inspired by what they see and begin to dream, then work towards the 2020 Olympics.

I’m too old, fat, slow and weak to be an Olympian. My athletic prowess will not be a good example for anyone. However as a leader I can ask which teenagers and young adults are watching me? Am I setting an example that inspires? Is there a new generation of leaders in the making because I do my job well?

It’s time for every leader, even the overweight old guys like me, to be an example which inspires. – BB