What Leaders Can Learn From Gabby Douglas

by Mark Dreistadt | Aug 4, 2012 | Leadership

U.S. Olympian Gabby Douglas achieved Gold Medal success at the London 2012 Olympic Games this past week. Her journey provides valuable insight for leaders today.

Gabby became the first American gymnast ever to win both team and individual all-around Gold medals for gymnastics at the same Olympics. With her big, outgoing personality and a bright smile, she did what many doubters said could never be done. Just two years ago, Gabby was virtually unknown; a small-town girl living with her family in Virginia Beach. Yet, Gabby was confident in her abilities and never once lost sight of the goal before her … Olympic Gold!

Gabby’s accomplishment required much more than her obvious natural talent. It required willingness to change, relentless preparation, unwavering focus, and most importantly, a deep abiding faith. Even at the young age of 16, this U.S. Olympian demonstrates qualities that every leader needs to learn and live by.

Committed to Change

Two years ago, Gabby moved from Virginia Beach to West Des Moines, Iowa to train under renowned gymnastics coach, Liang Chow. Gabby, her mother, and two sisters all wrestled with the trauma of this personal separation. However, they were ultimately convinced that this change was necessary for Gabby to become a successful Olympian.

Throughout life, each of us face changes that, while likely less traumatic, are often hard to accept. How we navigate seasons of change molds our character and shapes us into the leaders we will become. Every successful leader must walk through the fires of painful change and emerge with a deepening of character and genuine commitment.


Success Requires Preparation

Gabby’s commitment to success was put to the test when she left her family behind in order to prepare for the Olympics. For the past two years, she trained relentlessly for one pivotal opportunity in London. Gabby understood that success would not just come to her. It would require relentless preparation and unwavering discipline.

The road to success is always difficult. Every overnight success has come after years of preparation for that life-changing moment. Leaders tend to want to leap into action sooner rather than later — but successful leaders learn the value of proper preparation. Even the disciples spent 3 years training with Jesus before they were commissioned to go and teach the world.


Remain Focused On What Is Important

Amidst all the fanfare and pressure of the 2012 Olympics, Gabby Douglas never lost sight of the prize before her. She was committed to do her very best. As a result, Gabby became the first African-American to ever win the Women’s Gymnastics All-Around. But, she did not even realize what she accomplished until it was over. Gabby was not focused on the notoriety her achievement would bring — but simply on being the best she could be. The parallel for leaders is obvious. “Go for the gold” — and everything else will take care of itself.


Give All The Glory To God

With focus, preparation, and hard work, Gabby achieved her dream. But, she never lost focus of what was truly important in life.

“It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me,” Douglas testified in an interview.

Later Gabby continued her sentiments on Twitter saying, “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me.”

So here are the lessons we can we learn from Gabby Douglas:

  • Pay the price to make the right changes in your life
  • Relentlessly prepare for the future
  • Stay focused on the most important thing
  • Give God the glory for your success

Our congratulations go to Gabby, along with our appreciation for the insights we gained through her talent, her commitment, and her faith.

Mark Dreistadt

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