Our Podium athletes, through their results, have earned the right to tell us how they want to be supported in successfully managing their own 4 year Olympic campaign.
In effect our Podium athletes are the chairman of their own company - Alistair Brownlee.com or Jodie Stimpson.com. In some cases like Al and Jon they are also the Chief Operating Officer and in others like Helen and Jodie they devolve a good part of those operational responsibilities to their coaches. Either model works and both require our athletes to develop significant leadership qualities.
In present day Olympic sport, with the current levels of investment, this also means both working with and at times managing a significant support team - or board of directors too.
Learning to Lead aims to give athletes the knowledge and experiences to develop their leadership skills. We obviously don’t expect 14 year olds to lead their programmes. We do though expect them to start developing their skills by first being exposed to small levels of ownership and responsibility. As they journey along the Pathway we expect them to explore and enhance those skills until eventually they can excel at taking full or part proactive ownership of an expert and collaborative team.
Here is what double Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee and Commonwealth Champion Jodie Stimpson, 2 athletes who have quite different ways of leading their teams, have to say:
What elements of your process do you lead on?
AB - I lead on everything. I have from quite a young age enjoyed the challenge of owning my programme. I have always wanted complete responsibility for my performance right from when I decided I wanted a Yorkshire county cross-country vest and working towards it at age 11.
JS - Ultimately, yes I do lead on everything as the final decision always rests with me. That said I prefer not to have to lead everything and like to give my coach a lot of the responsibility for managing my day-to-day programme.
How have you developed as a leader over your career?
AB - I have always wanted ownership. My parents were really good in giving me the freedom to have this and so develop these skills. As my career progressed and the team around me has got bigger this has required some adjustment and development on my part to open up to more input but I still like to retain the day to day management of what I do. I think it would be fair to say that as my career has developed so has my leadership style – I am more collaborative now then I was.
JS - I have never really considered myself as an out and out leader but on reflection I do like to make sure that I take the final decision. The longer I have been in the sport the more interest I have taken in my team and in leading them I guess. I have always worked in close collaboration with my coach and I guess we have led the rest of my team between us. As I have always trained outside of the national training centres my team has been small and focussed which has been easier to manage.