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The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are in full swing in London, and people are tuning in every night to watch the most talented, disciplined and determined athletes from around the world compete against one another.

The Olympic Games are amazing, not only because they foster a sense of national pride, but also because they inspire all of us to work hard and strive to be the best at what we do. Even if you aren’t destined to set any world records in track and field, you can still learn valuable personal effectiveness and leadership lessons from Olympic athletes that you can apply to your own work.

5 Leadership Skills to Take Away from the Olympics

1. Put in the time.

“I wouldn’t say anything is impossible. I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and put the work and time into it.” – Michael Phelps

Gold medal winners know the value of hard work and practice, practice, practice. They must invest the time into becoming stronger and more proficient in their skills. You can emulate this approach by identifying the areas you want to strengthen in your professional life and committing time each day to developing them.

2. Show pride and passion in your work.

Olympians live and breathe their sports, and they are motivated by their passion for what they do. Harness that energy in your work; demonstrate your peak personal effectiveness in every task you do and seek out the projects you find most engaging or challenging.

3. Learn from your failures.

“If it turns out that my best wasn’t good enough, at least I won’t look back and say that I was afraid to try; failure makes me work even harder.” – NBA star and Olympic basketball player, Michael Jordan

Professional athletes have to fail, over and over again, before they succeed. If they gave up after their first few stumbles or mistakes, they would never make it to the Olympic podium. Remember that failure is a necessary part of growing in your professional life. Learn from the obstacles you encounter, don’t make the same mistakes twice and use the experiences to strengthen your leadership skills.

4. Take personal responsibility.

Olympic athletes know that when they compete, they are responsible for their actions. Yes, they rely on the support of their coaches and teammates, but ultimately they must hold themselves accountable for how they perform, whether they make the game-winning goal or make a false start in the race. Take responsibility for your decisions, and resist the temptation to pass blame onto others or make excuses for your mistakes (this also means you get to take responsibility for any successes!).

5. Tune out the naysayers.

“When anyone tells me I can’t do anything, I’m just not listening anymore.” – Olympic runner Florence Griffith-Joyner (who set the current women’s 100m dash world record time, at 10.49 seconds at the 1988 Olympics).

Athletes must learn to cope with a constant barrage of criticism and commentary, sometimes striving for goals no one believes they can achieve in order to succeed. Take a page from their book: believe in yourself, and keep going.

Who are your favorite Olympic athletes? Why? Share your response in the comments.

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