• Leadership Essentials – Gold Medal Leadership


    The difference between peak performing leaders and the rest is

    that they focus on the few things that make the biggest impact.

    This article identifies the 6 disciplines of Gold Medal Leadership:

    1. Be clear on what gold looks like

    2. Effective communication

    3. Get out of the way

    4. Take your own medicine

    5. Build your team

    6. Focus on follow-through and results

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    October 2010: Athletes from 71 nations converged in New Delhi,

    India to compete in the 260 events of the Commonwealth Games.

    The “entry ticket” to the Games was that the athletes had to be at

    the top of their sports in their own countries. The competitors who

    were proudly marching in the opening ceremony had already been

    gold medal winners on their home turf.

    I watched the final of the women’s squash. Malaysia’s world squash

    champion Datuk Nicol David looked cool and very efficient on her

    way to winning the gold medal. While she made it look easy, like all

    champions, she would tell us that winning takes a lot of effort. I

    imagined the years of discipline and focus that Nicol had devoted in

    her quest to becoming a peak performer, a world champion, and

    now, a Commonwealth gold medalist.

    I then started to ask myself whether Nicol’s gold medal winning

    principles could be applied to the “game of leadership”. That’s the

    game that readers of this article most likely play. In doing so, I

    identified a number of principles that I have called the 6 Principles of

    Gold Medal Leadership. These are the disciplines of leadership that

    leaders and managers can learn from athletes like Nicol who

    consistently operate at peak performance.

    Focus on a few things

    Peak sporting performers focus on the few things that make the

    biggest difference to their success. No matter what sport, there will

    be some common factors, including fitness, diet, lots of rest,

    strength, technique and psychology. Nicol David undoubtedly

    disciplines herself to stay fit. Despite the calorie-filled temptations

    that she is exposed to in her world travels, she ensures that she eats

    food that will be good for her. There will be no shortage of social

    events and late nights available to Nicol. But she maintains the

    discipline of getting lots of good sleep. She goes to the gym to

    maintain fitness and strength. This takes time and lots of sweat –

    and it is not always a lot of fun! She no doubt spends time

    continually working on her playing technique. And I am sure that she

    keeps thinking like a winner.

    A few


    factors lead

    to success

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    So, what are the disciplines that leaders should focus on to create

    peak performing teams and organisations? What are the few things

    that leaders and managers have to focus on to be gold medal

    leaders? The first question for you is to ask yourself whether you

    have identified what you really need to focus on as a leader of your

    team or organisation. If you want to be a gold medal leader, the

    starting point is to be clear on what you need to devote your

    attention to!

    The 6 Disciplines of Gold Medal Leadership

    The first discipline is to be clear on what the gold medal looks

    like. As a leader, where are you leading your team to? Do you have

    clarity on what success looks like? Does your team know where they

    are heading, and what their common purpose is? Do you know what

    your company’s vision is? How often do you talk about your

    company’s vision in your team meetings? If you are clear on where

    you are taking your team, then you have a much greater chance of

    getting there!

    Effective communication is a second discipline practised by gold

    medal leaders. I have been privileged to come across leaders who

    practice this discipline most effectively. They keep their teams up to

    date on progress. And they communicate one-to-one with individuals

    to stay on track. I have seen other leaders and managers who are

    focused on strategy and on doing reports and other “important stuff”.

    These are leaders who spend far too little time on the discipline of

    being visible within the team, communicating with them, making

    them feel valued and connecting them to the higher purpose. These

    leaders keep asking themselves why their teams under-perform. It’s

    a bit like a long distance runner who spends too little time on fitness

    training and then asks himself why he is coming last in his races.

    A third discipline is to get out of the way. John Harvey-Jones, the

    acclaimed British head of ICI said that it’s important to give people

    “head room.” This means trusting your team members and

    empowering them to do their jobs. Getting out of the way includes

    having your people feel free to come up with ideas on how to drive

    the business forward – and to be allowed to implement those ideas.

    The alternative is to micro-manage, with the result that the team will

    depend on the leader for decisions. A team that stands still until the

    leader says “it’s okay to walk” will never be a high performing team.

    Does your

    team have a

    clear picture

    of where they

    are heading?

    Give your



    “head room” –

    get out of the


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    As a leader, it’s important that you build trust among your team. A

    fourth discipline of success therefore is to “take your own

    medicine”. Your people will watch your behaviours. Your team

    members will believe your behaviours before they believe the words

    that you say. It’s not what you say, but rather, what you do that

    makes the difference. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change that

    you want to see”. This is about role modeling. If you want your team

    members to responsive to their customers, you’d better make sure

    that you are responsive to them. Kouzes and Posner, in their book,

    The Leadership Challenge, refer to this as “model the way.”

    The fifth discipline is to build your team. This means taking time to

    get the best people on board. High performance is created by high

    performing teams. Building your team means spending time

    coaching them to better performance.

    And, of course, the sixth discipline is to focus on follow through

    and results. Gold medal leaders WILL achieve results through their

    people, and they WILL build strong, committed teams, provided they

    focus on the disciplines of gold medal leadership. I have seen many

    managers who focus on the seventh discipline – results, results,

    results. They drive people hard to achieve their KPIs. The problem is

    that they do not build an organisation that is fit and healthy to play

    the game. They may achieve results, but create tired organisations

    and tired people. Imagine if Nicol was to focus just on technique.

    What would happen to her game? She would soon tire and run out

    of puff on the court. In short, focusing on results is important, but if

    the other disciplines of success are ignored, you will not build a

    sustainably high performing team.

    If you review the 6 Disciplines, you will note that the first 5 are about

    the “soft stuff” – the intangibles which have a big impact on people –

    clear direction, effective communication, get out of the way, role

    modeling and build your team. There is a message here. It is that

    results are created through people.

    We are all busy and seem to have too much to do in too little time.

    Gold medal leaders are just as busy as the rest of us. The difference

    between these peak performing leaders and the rest is that they

    focus on the few things that make the biggest impact. Your mission

    for next week is to review your activities over a week. Categorise

    how much time you spend on each of the 6 Disciplines. You may

    find gaps which will present opportunities to quickly achieve a

    personal best. Until next month!

    People believe



    more than

    they believe

    your words

    5 out of the 6

    disciplines are

    about the

    “soft stuff”

    ©2010 TMI Consultancy Sdn Bhd | www.tmimalaysia.com.my.my | Page 5 of 5


    Copyright © 2010 by George Aveling

    Share the knowledge! Please feel free to share this knowledge.

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