John Furlong and VANOC end on a high note: I laughed, I cried, I spent $10 bucks

Posted February 28, 2010 in Latest News & Insights

The typical Canadian inferiority complex peaked mid-games only to be proven wrong. Canada wraps up the games on a high note by owning the gold podium and John Furlong demonstrates that great leaders know how to tune out naysayers and have the last laugh.

Sometimes leaders stumble.  Sometimes they fall.  But the hallmark of a really great leader has to be the ability to dust oneself off and keep going to the finish line.  Although the athletes will be the ones most remembered from these games, it is the Vancouver organizing committee led by John Furlong that deserves their own big fat gold medal for leadership.

Certainly, Furlong and the VANOC team had their share of bumps and hits along their Olympic journey.  From a luge tragedy, to a malfunctioning hydraulic arm, to freakishly warm weather, to chain link fencing around the flame and a group of media pundits whipped up to pounce on every misstep.  Many would have wanted to throw in the towel.

One has to wonder what type of pressure someone like John Furlong was under and how he managed to get any sleep over the past 17 days.  It’s got to be frustrating when, with an event of the magnitude that the Olympics is, so much energy was spent by the general media whipping up silly stories (the women’s hockey team chomping cigars and having a beer on ice after everyone had left the arena… who cares!!).

We could all take a page from John Furlong and the VANOC committee on how to lead in high pressure situations.  Throughout the games, Furlong demonstrated poise, compassion and calm under pressure.  His closing speech was fantastic, touching on all the key moments of the games and earning standing ovations as he acknowledged the men’s hockey team and the Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili.

Kudo’s to Mr. Furlong for his vision and to the hundreds of people that helped execute it.  Vancouver 2010 brought Canada to the world stage and showed them that, despite the hiccups, we know how to get the job done.  The torch lighting at the opening of the closing ceremonies was a great example of how powerful it can be when leaders choose not to bury their mistakes but laugh at them and then get back out there and do it right.

As leaders, it’s not the bumps along the way that we’ll ultimately be measured by, but the final result.  And, when the result is triumphant, no one seems to remember those little hiccups. Instead, they find themselves filled with pride… and proud owner of a pair of $10 red mitts.

Happy leading!

PS – A special leadership shout-out goes out to BC Premier Gordon Campbell for waving the Canadian flag like a maniac during Furlong’s speech and nearly taking out Harpers eye.  Great show of patriotism and funny to watch the PM flinch.  Get in the game Steve!


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