Lessons leaders can learn from a great summer of sport
Against all odds we had a great summer of sport. Football almost came home, the Olympics and Paralympics were a huge success, and British tennis got a star that keeps on rising in Emma Raducanu.
And while for most of us winning a gold medal or lifting a major trophy is (sadly) out of reach, there are lessons we can learn from sporting greatness.
Here are 5 take homes from sporting achievement this summer – and some further reading to get you started:
Determination can beat the odds
Cyclist Mark Cavendish rolled back the years at the Tour de France this year, winning the green jersey and becoming joint leader of the all-time standings.
It was a remarkable achievement after contracting the Epstein-Barr virus in 2017 and a series of crashes left his career hanging in the balance. But Cavendish shrugged off the doubters and showed incredible grit and determination to battle back to his best - when it would have been easier to hang up the wheels.
Many called it a fairytale year for Cavendish, but anyone that's battled back from adversity knows it takes drive, hunger and mental positivity to overcome the toughest challenges.
Further reading: For an inspiring tale of drive, determination and positive thinking try Beyond Possible — One Soldier, Fourteen Peaks by Nimsdai Purja
Look after you
When Simone Biles pulled out of the women's team gymnastics competition it was headline news. Record-breaker, reigning holder of four gold medals and an American superstar, she was expected to jump, flip and balance her way to success again. But she walked away. She wasn't feeling at her best. And she took the decision to put herself first. With all that pressure and expectation, prioritising her mental health was the bravest move of all.
As leaders it can be all too easy to keep battling on in the pursuit of perfection, with the burden of responsibility for others, and fail to prioritise our own mental wellbeing. But neglecting your own needs doesn't just negatively impact you, it results in you having less clarity, energy and confidence to lead your team. So if you need to, take a step back and a foot off the gas and make some time for you – and don’t be afraid to show vulnerability.
Further reading: If you're stuck chasing perfect, The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar is well worth a read.
Drive is key
29 years ago Dame Sarah Storey won her first Paralympic gold medal, last month she won her 17th. It's an astonishing achievement that makes her the most crowned British Paralympian, but she's not stopping there and is already looking ahead to 2024. It takes incredible motivation to perform and succeed at the highest level for decades. And perhaps the key to Storeys longevity is in her reinvention and her drive to master new skills - her first gold was in her swimming, her last in cycling.
To stay fresh and motivated, a drive to learn new skills and take on new challenges is key. The ability to take a risk, to not stay in your lane, and to think in terms of what you can do, rather than what you can't do, can drive you to bigger and better things.
Further reading: If you want new (and better) ways to think about motivation Drive by Dan Pink is a brilliant place to start.
Stand for more
When the Norwegian women’s beach handball team refused to wear what amounts to little more than underwear to play competitive sport they were handed a fine from the European Handball Federation.
Taking a stand has seen the team achieve worldwide support and submit a motion to change the rules in an extraordinary congress of the sports federation later this year. But more than that it's drawn attention to the continued sexism in sport - but also an increasing desire for change.
We all have opportunities to go beyond our 'everyday' and use our platforms to make a difference. To act with purpose and use our collective power to push for change. When we stand for more, we achieve more and have a positive impact that goes beyond our business.
Further reading: If you want to explore how your business can stand for more, there’s no better case study than Patagonia.
Competitors aren’t the enemy
One of the most joyous moments of the Tokyo Olympics was when high-jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi made the decision to share the gold medal. They both performed brilliantly and they both deserved reward.
It was a triumph for community, of collective achievement, of acknowledging they had both pushed each other to achieve bigger and better things.
When you’re chasing the same clients, jobs, and accolades, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing competitors as the enemy. But these ‘enemies’ are just the same as you, encountering the same challenges, overcoming the same problems, and leading similar teams.
Gather is all about leaders coming together to connect, unite and grow. Heading up a team can be a lonely place and even the most experienced leaders need the right support. If you want to join a community who understand your challenges, we’d love to hear from you.