Inspired Leadership – Lead Like An Olympic Coach

In this series on Inspired Leadership, I’ve talked about how the best leaders love to help others succeed. One way they do that is they adopt the “Olympic coach model”. Imagine you’re an Olympic athlete and you retained me as your coach to help you win the Gold. I ask you, “What do you expect me to do to help you win a medal? “How should I spend my time with you each day or week? Being determined to be the best you can be and win the gold medal; I bet you would rattle off a list of expectations.

Following are eight key areas I believe are most important for any leader seeking to inspire their team and emulate the Olympic Coach model. If I was genuinely committed to your success, I would do the following:

  1. Set goals, standards and expectations
  2. Provide the necessary training
  3. Observe you in action
  4. Offer feedback and coaching
  5. Praise and encourage you
  6. Hold you accountable for results – no excuses
  7. Encourage you to believe you can succeed
  8. Know your dreams, aspirations and goals

If you manage or lead others, look at these tasks as your job description. When you perform these eight areas well, you’re truly serving the best interests of the people who report to you. How many hours per week do you spend on these key areas now? It doesn’t matter how busy you are or how well you complete your tasks or reports if your team is not succeeding. If you’re an employee and your manager is falling short in any of these areas, let him or her know you feel that that taking these actions is important to your success.

The best leaders pay particular attention to number eight–know the dreams, aspirations and goals of the people that work for you. Naturally, we all have people who report to us that want to advance in the firm you work for. But let’s face it, we all have personal and professionals goals that may or may not be different from our company’s goals. I personally have observed when you demonstrate a genuine interest in your people beyond what must get done in their job; they will often rise to the occasion for you.

Early in my speaking career I remember helping my assistant at the time, Linden, pursue her dream of having a gallery showing of her photography. I can still see the joy on her face as we drank champagne and celebrated that evening of the showing. Her loyalty, dedication and performance increased as a result. If I didn’t take the time to learn about her incredible photography skills and encourage her to pursue it, I would have missed out on the opportunity to win her respect. As a result, she went “the extra mile” for me. Yes, we need to encourage people who want to advance in the company you work for. However, many have other interests, dreams and hobbies you can also encourage and getting to know what those are for your employees will pay great dividends.

Action Item: As a leader, if you’re serious about embracing the “Olympic coach model”, ask your staff what they expect from you. Review the above eight items with them and ask”what can I do to help you succeed? Which of these areas do you feel are most important to you?” This will go a long way towards winning their respect and loyalty and demonstrate you care. If you’re an employee, let your manager know which of these you need the most. Since none of us are mind readers, direct communication is much appreciated.

Comments or questions for my blog?

What thoughts do you have about being an inspired leader? What are the challenges and rewards?

Best Practice: What are you doing to be an inspired leader or develop a servant leadership philosophy in your company? Do you have an example of how a great servant leader mentored you or helped you succeed? If you give me their name and a brief write up of how they impacted you it will be a nice recognition for them in my blog.

Thanks for your comments and please pass this email and blog along. Share the video with your managers and future leaders!

Dream Big!


About Barb Sanfilippo

High Definition People™ is a catalyst for behavior change providing practical tools, motivation and inspiration to help employees succeed personally and professionally. Barbara Sanfilippo, CSP, CPAE and Bob Romano are marriage and business partners who are committed to developing inspired leaders, igniting passion, instilling personal responsibility, encouraging a spirit of serving and helping people to experience work and life in high definition.

Barb is also the author of, Dream Big! What’s the Best That Can Happen? The book outlines concepts and practices employed by thousands of High Definition People™ throughout the world. For additional topics and information on inspired leadership, staff engagement, service and sales workshops, to view Barb’s demo video or to order, Dream Big! What’s the Best That Can Happen?, visit her website at

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2 comments on “Inspired Leadership – Lead Like An Olympic Coach
  1. Barb, as your colleague and friend, I am a grateful recipient of your inspired leadership. You walk your talk and always inspire me to think and dream bigger. Thank you. Excellent post!

  2. Debra Irwin says:


    Many years ago I had a boss that inspired me to reach further than I ever thought I could. The story goes like this… In 1978 I enlisted in the Air Force with the simple goal of learning a trade so I could better support my three children. After 2 years of service, I was transferred to a new location and then a dream assignment at the Major Command HQ in the Command Surgeons Office. Being highly competitive, I was constantly striving to grow and learn and often worked extra hours to get the work done—not wanting to let any one else in the office get ahead of me! Well, during that time, I often talked about going back to school and finishing my degree. I saw others in the office going to school in the evenings and also noticed that the work I did was not so different than what the officers were doing…for a lot more pay and respect…simply because they had the degree. Of course, that was all I did…just talk about it. Fortunately for me, my boss, Lt Col Duane Newton, knew that I needed a push to get past the talk. I’ll never forget his words to me. He simply said, “are you going to sit there and just talk about it like R**** P***** or are you going to get up and do something about it!” Well, never one to let a challenge go unmet, the next day I contacted the education office to see what was offered, signed up for classes, and three and a half years later, I graduated Summa Cum Laude and got a commission as a 2Lt in the Air Force! I ended up serving 20 wonderful years in the Air Force Medical Service and still work for them today as a civilian. My little dream of a trade was transformed into career all because my former boss took time to give me the push I needed.

    Thank you for your inspiring blog!

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