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Learn from an Olympian: 3 Things to Make You Stand Out from the Crowd

learn from olympians success teamwork

The Olympics is every athlete's dream. Winning a medal in the Olympics is the highest honour and recognition. To win a medal, you need to ace your game all around. When you lead a team, it requires no less than top-notch leadership skills.

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Janne Müller-Wieland (Photo: Getty Images)

Janne Müller-Wieland knows this very well. A triple Olympian and former captain of the German national women’s field hockey team, Müller-Wielandh has leveraged her sports background to co-found Unthink, a leadership development firm. Recently at the International SAP Conference for Energy and Utilities in Basel, Müller-Wieland shared valuable leadership strategies that resonate with industry change-makers. In this article, we would like to briefly share 3 insightful points she shared as to what we can learn from Olympic spirits to sharpen our leadership skills.

Take the Initiative to Find the Solution

Müller-Wieland placed a huge emphasis on taking ownership of a situation as a conscious decision. To illustrate this concept, she introduces an "ownership ladder." According to her, there is a strict distinction between constructive actions above an imaginary line and restrictive behaviours below it. Müller-Wieland explained that to attain greater success, we must cultivate the self-awareness to consistently propel ourselves and our teams above the line.

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Be Ruthless on Manageable Goals

Effective leaders who achieve high performance excel at breaking down intimidating goals into smaller, actionable tasks. These tasks are effective at propelling the team forward. To illustrate this approach better, Müller-Wieland provided a real-life experience she had when she was an athlete.

During the London games, her team confronted the challenge of reducing carbon emissions. Soon, they recognized that they could never match other countries' technical skills so they need to choose a different path. They decided to focus on becoming the fittest team. The team broke down the goal into daily, weekly, and monthly objectives for each player. This strategy enabled them to maximize their fitness and ultimately led them to victory.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. By contemplating the small actions that the team can initiate today and tomorrow, leaders can lay the groundwork for substantial progress toward their ambitious goals.

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Redefine the Performance Equation

Leaders can derive valuable insights from elite athletes competing at the highest level of sports. Performance equals potential minus interferences. It is crucial to identify the interferences that may arise. Then you need to determine whether they can be avoided, prepared for in advance, or addressed at the moment. Corporate leaders must acknowledge the existence of new environmental regulations and discuss strategies to meet market expectations.

Leaders across industries often encounter unique challenges. When this happens, exceptional leaders admit that they do not possess all the right answers. However, they must ask the right questions.

At the Rio de Janeiro games, Müller-Wieland observed that the coach of her team began showing at them from the sidelines at one point. This was not the style the team and the coach had agreed upon. In that tense moment, as a leader of the team, Müller-Wieland knew that she had to speak up, despite the discomfort, to promote accountability. According to Müller-Wieland, this is the difference between winning and losing. When you create a culture to perform under pressure as one team, you can finally achieve the much-coveted goals.

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