THE OLYMPICS – Linking Competence, Performance, and Leadership


Viewers in nearly every country across the globe recently witnessed one of the grandest sports spectacles in the world, the 30th Olympiad recently held in London, England. Athletes from around the world gathered to do one thing, demonstrate to a global audience the level of competence they had attained. Perhaps you were expecting the statement to say “they had gathered to compete for the coveted gold medal”, but that prize is only granted to those who were truly competent at their craft. Competence, the combination of knowledge skills and experience are the building blocks to the success so many of the athletes achieved. Similarly, in the workforce, an organizations’ effectiveness hinges in part on their ability to get staff competent in their jobs.

One of the most unique things about the Olympics is that all of the athletes possess a certain level of competence. They all had attained knowledge about their sport, and possessed the skills and experience to be named an Olympic athlete. However, competence alone did not ensure they would stand on the platform to receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Ultimately it was performance, the ability to “do” or accomplish a given task that mattered. Performance is one of the key elements of success which cannot be overlooked. It has been reported that most athletes spend nearly 8 hours a day, 6-7 days a week on average training. This intense training is done so that when the moment comes they can perform to the required level, which in many cases garnished the athlete a victory by only micro seconds over their competitor.

Leadership was another element which was critical; some would argue the most critical element to receiving one of the nearly 1,000 medals handed out. All of the Olympic athletes were gifted with some portion of natural talent, and all demonstrated a high level of commitment and drive, but without the element of leadership it would have been impossible to achieve the success they did. Most athletes give much of the credit for their success to their coaches, and in many cases their first coach was a parent or close relative. Although the athletes had the required skills, and the ability to perform under extreme levels of pressure, it was the coaches who provided the environment, guidance, training, and support long before the cameras of the world stage were turned on.

The Olympic challenge is much the same for most organizations around the globe who struggle to build the needed talent to make their organizations successful. Their employees need to have the skills and knowledge to adequately perform their job tasks, and have a proper amount of time “experiencing”, or training with their coaches so they too will be able to perform their tasks to Olympic gold standard.

As the world waits for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil athletes have already began intense preparation to perform for what is essentially a few seconds at the most critical time of their careers. The athlete who masters the combination of skill, performance, and leadership will once again prove to be the victor in the 31st Olympiad.

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