As I’m kicking back watching the Commonwealth Games, I quickly identify with my favourite athletes and instinctively turn away from those with the big egos or unsportsmanlike approaches to competition. My favourites may not always be gold medal winners, but they are always great people. Have you ever noticed that truly brilliant sportspeople are often great leaders and awesome people, too?
Amazing athletes are exemplars of self-leadership. Sure, they are disciplined, focussed and often likeable – even and especially when they are under pressure or when things aren’t going their way. But it’s something more than that which makes both a great athlete and a great leader – in my experience, it’s three things, really: Presence, Certainty and Service.
Brilliant athletes and leaders have a ‘PRESENCE’ about them which makes being in their company a truly special and memorable experience. Strangely enough, even though they are the sporting superstars and we are cheering from the couch, they make us feel special and somehow better when we’re with them – even through the TV screen! They make us feel like we could step up and achieve something great if we choose it.
Having ‘presence’ requires us to be grounded and centred, even when under the spotlight with millions of people watching. It requires us to switch off all that unhelpful internal chatter which sees us wondering if we’re performing well enough, or whether we look ‘good enough’ in comparison to our competitors or peers, and truly offer our attention and care to the person we’re with.
Amazing leaders and athletes have bucket loads of PRESENCE.
Like brilliant leaders, you’ll never catch world class athletes dwelling on questions about whether they’ve got what it takes to succeed. They have an internal knowingness that who they are, and what they do, is good enough. You’ll never see them indulging in questions about whether they deserve the success, or whether they really are any good at their chosen sport.
When faced with challenges, they may not have all the answers, but they back themselves to ask the right questions, engage the right team to support them and break through barriers that might stop others in their tracks. They have that internal sense of CERTAINTY (some call it confidence) that allows them to go out and perform without the constraints of self-doubt ruining their potential, and without the need for constant external reinforcement and validation from others.
We don’t pretend that top level athletes and world class leaders don’t doubt themselves from time to time – I suspect that like us, they are probably human too – it’s just that they don’t dwell in it for long, and they know how to quickly manage themselves through it.
Finally, both great athletes and leaders understand and live ‘SERVICE’ to others. In the case of the Commonwealth Games, the best athletes in the world are not only there to serve themselves, but also to serve their country, their team mates, their fans and they even return a sense of service to their support crews and volunteers.
It’s such a turn-off to encounter either a top-level athlete or senior leader who is only in it for themselves. Am I right, or am I right? They wreak of selfishness and their fans can smell it a mile off, even getting a whiff through our TV screens watching the Commonwealth Games is enough to turn us off.
Brilliant leaders and athletes totally get SERVICE to others. It’s just part of their mojo.
So, as you’re watching the Commonwealth Games and you’re feeling admiration for your favourite athletes, let me know if they’ve got the three ingredients of great self-leadership too: massive presence, internal certainty, and a sense of service to others. My bet is they’ll have all three in spades.