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What the women’s hockey win can teach us about leadership

Team Canada’s goalie Shannon Szabados and Hayley Wickenheiser celebrate after winning the gold medal in women’s hockey at the Sochi Winter Games.


In stunning fashion, Canada's women's hockey team showed the country how it's done in their gold-medal, nail-biting win against Team USA on Thursday. They also proved what strong leaders they are, how key it is to have a plan and keep your cool, and that you can't waver from your goal no matter what – lessons that leaders anywhere can learn from.

While business was put on hold as Canadians across the country watched the women battle their U.S. rivals for Olympic gold in Sochi, Russia, business leaders were taking note of the women's tenacity and what that said about leadership.

"The women's win shows that a relentless focus on execution always pays off," said Roy Osing, a leadership expert and former executive vice-president of Telus Corp. "The best game plan on paper – unless matched with passionate execution – is worthless. Our women have proven it."

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Richard Wajs, president and chief executive of TWC International Executive Search Ltd., said he will use the Canadian women's hockey team as an example for the kids he coaches in basketball. "The message is that perseverance, determination, and belief in one's own capabilities, even in the face of great challenges, leads to success," he said.

The Canadian women were behind by two goals with only 3 minutes 26 seconds left in their game against the U.S. team, which they have battled for supremacy at every Olympics since women's hockey was added to the lineup in 1998. The Canadian women kept to their game plan and scored twice to tie up the score, forcing the game into overtime. Then 8 minutes and 10 seconds into overtime, Marie-Philip Poulin scored the winning goal for a 3-2 win over the U.S.

"One thing stands out for me, time and time again, in distinguishing good teams from truly great teams, and that is the collective belief in their ability to get the job done, whatever that job might be," said Guy Beaudin, a senior partner based in Toronto with RHR International, an executive development firm.

"Nothing a leader does is more important than fostering and nurturing that belief on his or her team. Only that kind of belief kept these amazing women competing when merely 'good' teams would have given up. Truly an inspiration."

The team also showed its special chemistry, said Alison King, Toronto-based president of public relations firm Media Profile.

"There was no panic, a clear plan in place that everyone understood and it took great leadership not to deviate from that plan," she said. "They've set a very high bar for the men and are great role models for all Canadians."

Their come-from-behind win reminds us "to stay focused on our goals, even when all odds seem stacked against you in the heat of the moment. Never stop trying," said Kunal Gupta, chief executive officer of Polar Mobile Group Inc., which builds mobile applications for publishers.

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"Entrepreneurial leadership is all about keeping focus, looking for opportunities, dialling down the noise and persisting. We saw it all with team Canada," added Daniel Muzyka, president and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada.

The game was on in the boardroom at, a job website for voice actors and employers, and it was a great bonding experience, said Kevin Ronson, the company's vice-president of finance.

A staff member "pointed out the game was an excellent demonstration of the power of hard work and perseverance. I suspect our sales team will be working harder to close those outstanding deals before the end of the month," he said.

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