I don’t know about all of you, but every four years I find myself watching and caring about things I don’t usually even think about…beach volleyball, cycling, synchronized diving to name a few. I broke my Cinderella watch playing volleyball, I’ve always been nervous on bikes where the seat is higher than the handle bars, and I couldn’t get my Red Cross certificate for swimming because I was so terrified of anything head first.

Nevertheless, I find myself watching and admiring the dedication and skill of the athletes. Thus far, team members from each of our Junior League countries—Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S.—have medaled…I am in awe of all of these tremendous athletes.

There’s a lot to be learned about leadership and teamwork from the Olympics. As I write this I am thinking in particular about the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team and their gold medal moment on Tuesday. What did I learn?

They were well-prepared. They had the skills to succeed. As leadership teams we need skills and tools, too— to set the stage for a successful year…the plans, the budgets, and so forth.

They worked together and supported each other. As we head into the League year we all need to remember that leadership teams need to work together and be there for each other…when things are going as planned and when things are not perfect.

They used each member of the Fab Five to her best advantage. Each member did what she did best. It’s critical to leverage each member of the League to her best advantage.

They kept their calm and their focus when the stakes were high. I am sure that none of us in Leagues will ever feel the pressure that these young women felt—on national TV with a shot at a gold medal, which had not been won by the U.S. since 1996. Today I am thinking, if they can keep their cool, then I can, too, no matter what.

They were led into the competition by a remarkable Jordyn Wieber. Despite her disappointment the day before, she rallied and her first vault set the positive tone for the entire team. As leaders we need to find the inner resolve and strength to work to keep things on a positive path. How do you as a leader bring things back on course if an issue in one area of the League arises? How do you prevent one misstep from derailing others? Part of being a leader is the ability to rise above the problems and put things in perspective for the rest of the team.

Susan E. Danish
Executive Director
The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.