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Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos: Leadership and the Art of Winning and Losing Graciously

Posted by Dr. Holly Latty-Mann on

The other day I watched “Michael Phelps equal the record for medals won by an Olympic athlete when he claimed silver in the final of the 200m butterfly as Chad le Clos of South Africa took victory with the final stroke.” But what I observed next was perhaps a stunned Phelps seemingly snub the friendly attempt of the gold medalist who was reaching out to acknowledge Phelps with a pat on the back.  Le Clos’ gracious gesture did not even earn him eye contact. Not even a murmured, “Congrats.” Nada. So maybe Phelps was stunned and oblivious. All the same, this is a perfect example of how mindfulness would have offered Phelps a chance to appear gracious in his loss to Chad le Clos.  By contrast, Le Clos’ comments later to the press showed leadership at its best:  “Michael’s my hero, and I didn’t expect to win.”

[It should be noted that much later Phelps was seen engaging Le Clos in congratulatory fashion. Timing is such a critical piece in how people perceive leadership dynamics.]