So many learnings from the Olympics 2012 already and I’m sure there will be reams written and blogged before the event is over.
I loved the opening ceremony. Quirky, witty, bizarre yet compelling. Not trying to play Beijing at their own game, but able to stand out and “win” in their own understated British way.
But so far for me, the most intriguing vignette was pre- and post- the Australian Dream Team of the Men’s 4 x 100 freestyle. Individually, all of them brilliant swimmers. Together, given the pre-race hype, they should have been invincible. Indeed, by James Magnussen’s (for whom I have the greatest respect as an athlete) own pre-race, self-hype, they might as well have broken the World Record, before even entering the water. I am a great believer in visualisation and knowing and being able to feel and see the results beforehand. But to announce it from the rooftops only gave ammunition to their opponents to rise to the challenge – which they certainly did.
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom. Sun Tzu
Now, it’s not that they didn’t succeed in being placed in the final that was so intriguing to me. Even the best of plans can go awry.
Instead, it was the action or inaction of Magnussen, as the team’s leader and spokesman, that was so illuminating. On the one hand he was very willing to add fuel to the fire of already astronomical expectations prior to the race; yet his actions post-race were incongruent with those of a true leader. He let his team down much more in defeat than anything that happened during the race itself. By refusing to speak to the press; skulking in the background and wandering off to leaving the less experienced members of his team to front-up, didn’t do him any favours at all. And kudos to Targett, Sullivan and especially Roberts for stepping up to the mark, when Magnussen didn’t.
A leader will face good times and bad; he will win and he will lose. It is in defeat that a leader learns, grows, becomes stronger and more resilient. But it is how he reacts, gets back up again and in particular how he supports and protects his team, especially in defeat, that sets a great leader apart.
So The Missile needs to gut up for the next time, learn to be able to face the music, support his team mates and move on. It’s a hard but necessary lesson that every leader needs to learn.