Today’s topic is respect. In this post I continue a short leadership series influenced by the London 2012 Olympics.
The London 2012 Olympics was a great spectacle of human endeavour. Over 10,000 athletes—Olympians—from around the world trained for four years to have the opportunity to represent their nation. We saw 104 Olympic records and 38 world records broken and many personal bests smashed. They were great games!
To celebrate the success of the London 2012 Olympics I take a look at the Olympic values and examine their relevance in leadership.
The Olympic values are:
Let’s consider the second value: Demonstrating respect.
Sarah Stevenson is the reigning Taekwondo world champion and Beijing bronze medallist. Yet her London 2012 campaign lasted only six minutes. She was beaten in her opening bout by American Paige McPherson.
We could easily dismiss Stevenson’s shock exit as unfortunate. Or even a disappointment. However, in so many ways Sarah Stevenson’s Olympic games was a triumph.
I only realised at the end that it was an achievement to even be in the ring. I don’t think I had realised how tough my life in the run-up had been.
Stevenson won her second welterweight world title in May 2011 only months before losing both her mother and father to cancer. Unsurprisingly Sarah spent much of 2011 shuttling between different wards of a Sheffield hospital caring for her parents. And as if this wasn’t enough, Stephenson needed surgery in February 2012 to repair a cruciate ligament injury. Competing at the London 2012 Olympics was an achievement in itself. Stevenson is a remarkable athlete—a courageous leader—who has displayed moving human qualities.
Sarah Stevenson would say that Taekwondo has much to do with this. It strives to create well-rounded and responsible athletes. It achieves this by developing the positive aspects of an individual’s personality: respect, courtesy, goodness, trustworthiness, loyalty, humility, courage, patience, integrity, perseverance, self-control, an indomitable spirit and a sense of responsibility.
Courageous leaders earn our respect because they do what is right.
So what is respect? And what does it mean in leadership?
Respect is a positive feeling. It’s holding someone in high esteem. It’s valuing opinions greatly.
But why would a leader be held in high esteem? Circumstance maybe. Most likely their credibility. That is, how they treat others. Of being convincing and believable.
When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you. – Lao Tzu
The courageous leader conducts themselves with uncompromising integrity and honesty. They earn credibility and they earn trust because this is essential to their long-term personal and business relationships.
Acting with integrity and honesty means
- Standing up for what you believe even if this makes you unpopular
- Not covering up mistakes or manipulating the truth
- Speaking up when something is wrong
- Taking responsibility to make things right
- Putting values ahead of self-interest
- Being straightforward and honest when dealing with bad news or difficult issues
Honesty requires courage.
The Courageous Leader
Sarah Stevenson is the most successful Taekwondo champion in history. She has extraordinary bravery and candour. After an immensely difficult year Stevenson still had the courage represent her country at the London 2012 games. What’s more, she also had the strength of character and conviction to openly criticise the BBC for the absence of women from the 2011 Sports Personality of the Year short list.
Sarah Stevenson is an inspiration. A courageous leader. She has my respect. Moreover, she has the respect of fellow Team GB athletes who selected her to read the Athletes’ Oath at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.
Next time I write I’ll continue the theme of the Olympic values: Celebrating friendship.
Have Your Say
Who inspires you? How does their example change your behaviour? Do you speak up when something is wrong? Where do you find courage? Please join the discussion.
Creative Commons image courtesy zeevveez.