THE BLOG

Leadership Lessons From the Olympics

02/25/2014 11:44 am ET | Updated Apr 27, 2014
  • Tom Fox Vice President, Partnership for Public Service's Center for Government Leadership

Like many of you, I love watching the Winter Olympics for both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Beyond witnessing these incredible athletes perform super-human feats, I also consider the whole event a metaphor for leading in government.

For roughly two weeks, athletes who often toil in anonymity are thrust into a very public spotlight where every action, every response to their win or loss, is endlessly analyzed. If you have a bad day, you're considered a disappointment. If you handle any outcome -- good or bad -- less than graciously, you may be labeled arrogant, self-centered or even a poor representative of your country.

Looking at the Olympics through this leadership lens, I see the connection with federal managers. Does a federal leader rise to the occasion and help employees overcome the obstacles? Does the leader complain and make excuses that leave everyone feeling defeated? Does a federal leader use mistakes as an opportunity to explore lessons learned and to continuously improve? Does a leader simply look to blame others when things don't go as planned?

A federal leader's actions or inaction will create a reputation -- one likely to affect employees' perceptions and, more importantly, their performance.

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