On August 5th, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  While there will be much coverage, the world will likely be watching three athletes – Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Simone Biles.  These are three Apex Leaders, the best in the world at what they do.

I profiled Phelps prior to the 2012 London Games in the post What To Do Next When You No Longer Feel Challenged: Leadership Lessons From Michael Phelps.  But I have not profiled Bolt and Biles until now.

I found their approach to their craft fascinating.  They are so much better than their contemporaries that personal motivations must be driven by something completely different than most leaders.  Read their thoughts and see what I mean.

The following are 12 Leadership Quotes And Lessons From Olympians Simone Biles And Usain Bolt gleaned from recent articles:

USA Today July 8th

  1. Apex Leaders Have Different Sets Of Goals – In most competitions, Biles often has a significant points lead over her closest competitors.  Heading into the Olympic Trials, she was focused on a different set of goals.  Longtime coach Almee Boorman says, “The (margin of victory over teammates) means nothing to her.  It’s not goal-driven for her, like, ‘I’m going out to do better to beat somebody.'”
  2. Apex Leaders Are Self-Led And Self-Motivated – Rather than being driven to defeat her closest competitors, Biles is driven by the pursuit of discovering just how good she can actually be.  Coach Boorman adds, “She holds herself to a certain standard and expectation.  ‘I trained this hard to go out and try to do my best in competition.”
  3. Apex Leaders Do Not Have A Sense Of Entitlement – They feel to have to continually prove themselves, Briles concludes, “It would be bad if I walked into this competition (U.S. Trials) saying, ‘I already have my spot on the team.’  I feel if my personality was like that, which it isn’t, I wouldn’t be as good in practices.”

Sports Illustrated, July 18th

  1. Apex Leaders Are Recognized By Their Peers For Their Greatness – Former Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Michael Johnson said, “I always put Jesse Owens above everyone.  But in terms of recent years, Bolt is the greatest.”  Trinidad sprinter Marc Bruns added, “The next Bolt will (not) be (again) for my children’s children’s children.  Possibly.”
  2. Apex Leaders Work Hard – While Bolt was recognized for his potential at age 17, he was often indifferent to training.  Bolt only become the world’s greatest sprinter three years later after developing the necessary work ethic.
  3. Even Apex Leaders Can Better With Coaching – No matter how accomplished you may be, everyone can get better with a good coach.  Bolt continues learning from his 66-year-old coach Glen Mills.  When Mills provides instruction Bolt can be heard saying, “O.K. Coach, O.K.”
  4. Apex Leaders Produce Superior Results While Under Pressure – Since 2008, Bolt has won 40 of 44 100-meter races and 27 of 28 200-meter finals.  This means when he goes up against the world’s best sprinters, Bolt is a combined 67-5!  Embedded in his performance is five world records. In addition, he has also been part of three additional world records in the 4×100 relays.
  5. You Never Have To Recover From A Good Start – If Bolt is currently beatable, it will be the result of an occasional mistake coming out of the blocks.  But if Bolt starts cleanly or even fast, the opposition has no chance.
  6. Even Apex Leaders Can Grow Satisfied And Complacent – Bolt says, “Sometimes I question myself, ‘Why am I still doing this?  I’ve accomplished so much in the sport’, you know what I mean?  I still want to accomplish more, but it gets harder over time.”
  7. Apex Leaders Have Multiple Income Streams – Bolt makes over $32 million annually in sponsorships from companies like Gatorade, Puma and Hublot.
  8. Apex Leaders Are Not Easily Replaceable – No one is irreplaceable but do not be naive, everything does rise and fall on leadership.  When Bolt does not participate in a meet, the stadiums usually suffer from extremely poor attendance.
  9. The Influence Of Apex Leaders Is Temporary – All leadership is temporary.  Therefore, steward it well while you have it.  Bolt is a realist.  He says, “I’m older now, and it’s harder for me.  But anytime I start feeling really down, I remind myself, You have got to get this done this year.”
***Bonus*** the following are two additional quotes on hard work from United States Olympians as they prepare for the Rio games:
USA Today, June 14th
“Some days, it does make me wish I was relaxing instead of putting in all this hard work.  But it it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be worth it.” – swimmer Haley Anderson on her attempt to win Gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic games
Sports Illustrated, July 23
“If you think you’re good but you don’t do the work, you won’t keep up.  One bad day, and you can go from No. 7 (on the team) to 17.” – USA women’s rowing coach Tom Terharr
What is one thing you learned from these leaders which will make you a better leader?

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