Leadership Lessons from Two-Time Olympian Shawnee Harle

Leadership Lessons from Two-Time Olympian Shawnee Harle

Leadership Lessons from Two-Time Olympian Shawnee Harle 600 358 Catherine Bell

Leadership Lessons from Two-Time Olympian Shawnee Harle

leadership lessons

Leadership Lessons


Shawnee Harle has a Masters Degree in Coaching Studies and is a former two-time olympian as Assistant Coach for the Canadian Women’s Basketball Team. She brings her extensive leadership experience to her work as a corporate coach, leadership coach, life coach, mental toughness coach and motivational speaker with Winning Matters. Recently, she shared some of her leadership lessons with me.


1. How would you define an awakened leader?

Look in and Lead Yourself before you look out and Lead Others.  An awakened leader pays attention to what’s going on with her, what affect she has on the people around her and then makes course corrections where necessary.  When she is awake and paying attention, it allows her to make decisions that take her toward her Best Self. Decisions Decide Destiny.

2. What 3 practical tips would you give to a leader on how to awaken?

First, you must realize you are asleep and that’s the tricky part.  For me, when I am asleep, I am in Unconscious Incompetence, which means I am not conscious, not present, not paying attention.  When I’m not paying attention, it’s difficult to remember to pay attention.

Second, I set a reminder on my phone or my computer that wakes me up!  The reminder pokes me and helps get out of Unconscious Incompetence and into Conscious Competence.  It reminds me to be present and pay attention.

Third, I find myself moving in and out of awake and asleep throughout the day.  When I get busy, focused on a work project, over-tired, or over-stressed, it’s easier to be asleep and stay asleep. I set frequent reminders to poke me to wake up and I also put a sticky note on my computer and my bathroom mirror.  Staying awake isn’t as simple as it sounds.

3. You are a two time Olympian as an assistant coach – what is a better motivator love or fear or both?   Why?

Love, hands down. I understand that research shows motivation can be positive or negative. However, I have never worked with anyone, in sport or business, where fear has been a healthy motivator.  Fear might work in the short term, but I believe that fear as a motivator is disempowering.  Fear leads to avoidance behaviours and I don’t believe those are ever healthy.  Your Best Self can never shine under a blanket of fear.

4. Describe the mindset of some of the best athletes you have worked with and how can we transfer that over to the business world?

The best athletes I have ever worked with are not afraid to fail, not afraid to take a risk, not afraid to grow and stretch.  In fact, they understand that failure is the pre-requisite to growth.  Fail, fix, grow, learn, stretch, repeat.  Actually, I need to rephrase that.  They feel fear, but they do not let fear dictate their actions.  They acknowledge the fear rather than avoid it or try and fake it with false confidence.  They have a high tolerance for emotional discomfort and they understand that fear is proof they are in the Jungle, managing the spider and snakes.  No fear, no risk, no growth can only happen in the Zoo where it’s safe, comfortable and cozy.  “Without fear, there can be no courage.”

The best athletes I have ever worked with are people of outstanding character and they are winners, both on and off the court.  They understand that basketball, in and of itself, is shallow and empty and at the end of the day, nobody really cares how many points you scored or how many trophies you won. It’s connections with people that add depth and richness to their basketball experience. Basketball is simply a context for them to evolve and grow. These athletes do not let sport define them.  Basketball is what they do but it’s not who they are.  I guess you could say the best athletes I have ever worked with are awakened.

5. What does “winning” mean to you?

Winning means I am paying attention to being the best version of myself – my Best Self. Days when I am awake more than asleep are days I feel like I’m winning.  When I am challenging myself, tolerating emotional discomfort by stretching and trying something new or doing something differently than I’ve done it before, are days I feel like I am winning.  When I accept that feelings are not menu, I can’t pick and choose and the negative feelings have as much to teach me as the positive ones, on those days I feel like I am winning.  Best of all, when I get to share my knowledge and experiences with clients, teams, friends and family so we can all become more awakened, on those days, I feel like I’m standing on top of the podium.

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