During the Olympic Games, I fall in love. I fall in love with humanity because every athlete that earns a place at the Olympics reminds me of our human potential. I am reminded that greatness is possible. It's not just about physical endurance and mental toughness. More than anything else, it's about having a core belief that you are destined to do something far beyond the ordinary. Athletes and coaches know deep down that their purpose is to reach new heights -- no matter what obstacles come their way. What they learn in the process of becoming an Olympian, or coaching one, is that they don't achieve greatness alone. Along the way there is that special someone -- a parent, a coach, a doctor, a friend -- who becomes their "difference maker."
The background stories of the athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics are as captivating as the competition itself. I think about the Canadian gymnast, Brittany Rogers, whose Olympic hopes were dashed when she fell off the balance beam and broke her ankle. After months of anguish, along came Dr. Dory Boyer -- her difference maker. Read About Her Miracle
Great leaders are "difference makers." I had the privilege of working for such a rare human being, John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver Olympic Committee, when Canada was seeking to win the spot for 2010. His job was to lead every aspect of this global competition and he delivered in spades. He gave the world an extraordinary 2010 Winter Olympics, igniting a sense of patriotism in millions of Canadians both at home and abroad. Those who worked for him were given the opportunity to experience their greatness.
In his book Patriot Hearts, John writes about how often he encountered opposition, setbacks, failure and fear on the road to bringing the games to British Columbia. As the leader, he knew his job was to be the "difference maker" when there was community discourse, funding issues and extraordinary demands from every corner of his office and his country.
As a former coach, John knew greatness was built on people's ability to be real and to trust -- and that each team member would be called upon to inspire the other.He shares,
Players who are not prepared to declare their vulnerabilities, such as an injury, fear or lack of confidence, will cause great grief in the dressing room -- and on the field. By not being upfront and honest they hurt their team. I told my team that if they weren't sure of themselves they were to raise their hand and declare it. I didn't give a damn how badly they felt about it -- on this squad it was a sign of strength not weakness.
When all was said and done, his request created a powerful culture of openness, understanding and courageous leadership. He inspired us to strive for greatness -- to make a difference -- and together we succeeded.
If you are struggling, declare it. Then, seek out the "difference maker" in your life -- that special someone who will inspire you and believes in your capability for greatness. If you are the leader, look around and ask yourself -- Where am I needed? Where can I help someone make his or her difference in the world? Be brave. The world needs more greatness.