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Olympic athlete shares leadership lessons from the world of sports

March 12th, 2012 by Public Affairs

Photo: Sami Jo Small Sami Jo Small’s motto in life is you don’t get to choose the role you play, but you get to choose how you play it, and it’s a motto she says will serve people well in the business world.

Small, an Olympic athlete and co-founder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, spoke to Ivey’s MBA students on March 8 about the importance of making the most of situations that are at odds with what you imagined.

She has experienced firsthand what it’s like to play a different role than you planned for and also saw the benefits of playing it to the best of your ability. Small was a starting goalie for the Canadian women’s hockey team playing in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, but was told she couldn’t play in the final game that won the team a gold medal. Instead of moping about the change in plans, she chose to cheer for her team from the sidelines. She did the same as a third-string goalie for the women’s hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.

Although disappointed those roles were not what she had in mind, she embraced her role as cheerleader because her team needed her.

“It wasn’t the role I wanted to play, but it was the role I was given,” she said. “There’s a need for leadership in every role.”

Small said she learned that teams need all of their members, regardless of their roles.

“It didn’t matter whether you scored all the goals or made all the saves or just cheered. There’s a need for leadership in every role,” she said. “You will soon be in a position where people will need your leadership skills. Remember that wherever you end up is where you are supposed to be.”


Below: Watch a video interview between Gerard Seijts and Sami Jo Small about the role you play


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