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We all win with good leadership


We all win with good leadership

Leadership is one of my favourite topics. It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why, but I have some guesses. The first is that good leadership skills are almost identical to good mental skills. A good leader should be self-aware, focused, motivated, resilient, and confident. They should be a strong communicator and supportive teammate, have a clear vision, values, and goals, and have excellent emotion control. These are all the same skills that help an individual to be mentally strong and to more consistently perform at a higher level. These are all skills that I work on with my clients. Leading is simply another performance venue within which we can apply these mental skills - and yes, everyone can lead.

You don't have to be a driver to be a leader

The second reason I love leadership is that, to me, it is a win-win scenario, and there simply aren't enough of those these days. People who know me well often tease me for preferring cooperative games to competitive ones: modifying the rules of a card game so that we are working toward a collective goal rather than an individual goal at the expense of others. Too many things in life are win-lose. Too many people operate under a win-lose philosophy: that in order for them to win, others must lose. I don't believe this to be true - at least not all the time. And the best leaders I know don't operate this way either. Good leaders don't need to push others down to get to the top - they bring others up with them and redefine what the top is. Good leaders create collective wins where everyone contributes, everyone succeeds, and everyone feels valued. Good leaders create and foster new leaders. They don't need to be at the front; they don't need to be the one with the megaphone; they don't even need to be in charge.

Success doesn't have to be at the expense of others

You may call me soft or silly, maybe naïve, but if you've ever been around a great leader, you will know exactly what I'm talking about. And let me be clear, in no way does win-win also mean lose-lose. I think that is where most of the criticism for 'everybody wins' comes from. Some people, unfortunately, believe that if everybody wins then nobody wins. We need to find a way to feel self-worth without having to diminish someone else's. We need to define success in more inclusive terms than "beating everyone else."

Kids get it - striving for success with friends and teammates is the fun part

It might surprise you to hear that when I work with younger athletes and teams they don't need to be taught this. Sure, they like to win, but the 'winning equals beating others' idea comes from adults - so does the 'success equals winning and nothing else' idea. We need to stop spreading these rumors because they're hurting our kids and they're hurting our society.

It doesn't matter what type of situation you're in either. I've participated in and worked with athletes from both team and individual sports, at everything from recreational to Olympic levels. Good leaders are strong competitors but they don't put much value in beating others alone. They strive for progress, not perfection and celebrate everyone's successes. I have to say I do really enjoy team sports for that shared sense of accomplishment and pride when a team goal is achieved, but some of my best memories of success come from competing in track and field with close friends and rivals where we both achieved personal bests. To be honest I don't even remember who came out on top - I just remember a shared feeling of elation when we saw our times come up. So please, take the initiative, get to know your opponents as well as your teammates and celebrate all successes. Losses are more bearable and wins are more enjoyable when shared with those who have also shared in the pursuit - whether you were pursuing it from the same side or not.

Instead of aiming for the top so that we can push others down and gloat about how high we are, let's aim for the top so that we can pull others up and share with them how we got there. Then together we can climb even higher.

That's what leadership is to me.

When we push each other to our limits we can achieve more than we ever thought possible
7 closed white doors in a wall

You don’t get to choose your choices


A few years ago my classmates and I got into a debate about the idea of choice. The question was, "Is it fair to say that if you want something you just have to choose to go and get it?" After a long and fairly intense discussion of the different perspectives involved we still couldn't quite say yes or no but we had definitely established that this was not simply a yes or no question. There were far too many factors to consider, and I was left feeling, as I often do in situations like this one, both frustrated with the lack of answer and with the demand for an answer in the first place. You see I grew up loving math and logic and the challenge of figuring something out and knowing that you had found the right answer. I still love the hard, objective, black and white, clear, direct, straightforward, and simple. However, I am continually drawn to the soft, subjective, gray, murky, indirect, complex, and puzzling. Frustrated as I may be, I am intrigued, and I am learning more and more that most matters fall into the second category, whether they indeed start there or are dragged there by context and circumstances.

To come back to our question, the answer seems like it should be an easy, simple, straightforward "yes": if you want something just make the choice and go and get it. You may have heard some motivational quotes, sayings, and videos like this one that seem to support this, including by Will Smith's character in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. And, to an extent, this is true, and can be a helpful motivator for some people. We all have the same number of hours in the day and days in the year; we all get to make choices everyday that affect our future; we are all capable of far more than we may ever know and if we continue to make the right choices and prioritize those choices we can achieve great things.

Seems pretty straightforward right? But when you start to talk to people - when you start to look a little deeper at the context surrounding those choices, and the circumstances of people's lives - you realize that we all have different demands and commitments within those same hours and days; we all have different requirements for things like sleep and down time in order to continue to function in a healthy way; we all have different priorities in life; and we all have different circumstances and obstacles to overcome. It is these differences that make the answer to our question more likely a subjective, complex,  murky "yes…but".

padlocked chain against green wood panels
Life is also full of obstacles and barriers

In the days after our discussion, I happened upon a quote that seemed to help support and explain this "yes…but" answer. The quote says, "You don't get to choose your choices - you just get to make the ones you're given." In other words, if you want something AND YOU HAVE THE CHOICE, just make the choice and go get it. Now that's not to say that you can't make choices that will open up other choices and so on and so forth, but it's just not as simple as we sometimes make it out to be. There are always uncontrollables in life and sometimes those uncontrollables hijack our choices and derail our plans. Remember that the one choice you always have is how you will respond to a situation. You may not be able to make the choice you wanted to, but you can always make a choice to move forward in a positive direction from where you are. To be clear I am not advocating for making excuses or giving up on your dreams because things get hard. I am, however, advocating for self-care, compassion, understanding, and a healthy, realistic outlook.

The second really big caveat I'll add to our initial question is that just because you have the choice does NOT mean it is the right choice for you at the time. Too many people end up feeling guilty because they chose a different path or prioritized another area of life. Just because other people have made that choice, or think you could/should make that choice, does not inherently make it the right choice for you. Your values and priorities in life are your own - don't let anyone make you feel guilty for choosing your own path and pursuing your own goals.


1. You always have a choice - even if it is just your response.

2. You don't get to choose your choices, but you can make choices that will open up more choices in the future.

3. Don't ever feel guilty for making your own choice and prioritizing what is important to you - success looks different for different people.

Have you ever felt guilty for giving up on or not pursuing a goal? How did you move forward and through that guilt? What is the hardest decision you've ever made and what helped you make it? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with us in the comments or send me an email at jocelyn@balancedperformance.ca.