The world is looking at Tokyo, immersed in the Olympic Games, wondering who the best in each category will be. Sports in general, and the Olympics in particular, talk about effort, competition, resilience and teamwork. And at times, about the pleasure of doing things only because you can, setting a vision for the future and not necessarily a reward in the present.
When Simone Biles, American artistic gymnast and revealed as the greatest gymnast of all time – with the permission of Nadia Comaneci -, performed the Yurchenko double pike for the first time, judges astonished.
Her new vault was so difficult and so dangerous that no other woman would attempt it (so far, only a few men attempted it). This vault is a combination of power, physics and fearlessness. Nevertheless, the judges’ scoring was not so impressed. They gave it a similar score to what other Bile’s vaults had received, undervalued the difficulty of her new move.
They reason why they did this, lately confirmed by the gymnastics federation, was a concern for the safety of other gymnasts not as skilled as Simone Biles. By assigning a dangerous move a low value, other gymnasts will be discouraged to try it. And, as a collateral effect, they prevent Biles to run away with any competition she enters just by doing something the other competitors cannot.
Despite not being fairly rewarded, she confirmed she would continue doing it. When asked why, she simply responded: “because I can”.
Inspiring by example
That “because I can” statement is a declaration of intentions: excellence, courage and effort, despite the actual reward. She is setting the path for future gymnasts, teaching how to play to win and taking risks.
It’s inspiring for the ones coming after because it tells a clear message: if you think you should do something, do it; know yourself, take risks and play to win. Probably, no other woman can perform that impossible vault in a long time, but it doesn’t matter.
Helping others to reach higher soars, just by inspiring them, is worth it. And, when the next Simone Biles appears, the world will be ready for her.
I usually talk about leadership, but followership is equally important. The first person deciding to follow you is who makes you a leader. To get that first person, you need to inspire and motivate because the risk that someone takes by being your first follower is much greater than anyone coming after: it’s a bet on the future.
From this point of view, setting the example and doing things just because you can without looking for a short-term reward is a powerful mindset.
Your ability to visualize how your actions now can impact the future is important. The fact that you discover new ways of doing and develop some actions, behaviours, mindsets in your organization just because you can, inspiring others and shaping the future could make a difference in building leadership.