Bode Miller is the most successful male American alpine ski racer of all time. He may also be the most innovative. He once strapped a snowboard onto each foot so that he could experience “skis” with more sidecut.
But where did he discover his notoriously innovative style?
“My grandmother was a huge part of my life. When we watched the 1984 Winter Olympics together on TV, I asked her how the skiers learned to do what they were doing. She told me they were born just like me, but they had the drive and the right opportunity and stuck with it. She helped me understand what it took to be great.”
In his skiing, Bode cultivated a relentless curiosity and a fascination with becoming better. In his book, Bode: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun, Miller says that his goal as a skier was not to win medals, but rather to ski “as fast as the natural universe will allow.”
When I watch Bode ski, what I see is someone supremely confident in their own body, a gifted improviser, deeply practiced but also instinctive and totally present in every moment.
How do we make sense of Bode’s trademark go-for-broke style? And what does this have to do with understanding leadership?
Here at Leadership Landing, we see that good leadership is the result of innovation. We define innovation as a creative and daring approach, that is also productive! To be innovative, a leader has to be determined to find a better way, and have the courage to pursue their goals. Bode Miller’s quest to ski “as fast as the natural universe will allow,” is a perfect example.
We define innovation as a creative and daring approach, that is also productive! To be innovative, a leader has to be determined to find a better way, and have the courage to pursue their goals.
Terms like “creative” and “daring” are more often romanticized than actively endorsed. But true Innovation comes with risk. And park of that risk is the possibility for failure. For Bode Miller this meant a skiing style that looked “reckless” to others. In Bode’s mind the math was simple: he would ski right on the edge of what he knew was possible. Sometimes that meant utter failure, including injury. Other times that meant setting new records, and winning on the global stage.So often, a leader that exhibits a creative, daring, and productive approach to solving organizational challenges can be mystifying to others. Miller is often thought of as a “rule breaker” but the push to improve requires bravery and innovation, which by definition means challenging the status quo. A push to truly innovate, to take performance to a new higher level, sometimes means breaking the status quo entirely.
The road to improvement doesn’t have to be quite so edgy and high stakes for leaders in the workplace. By creating secure environments based on mutual respect and trust, leaders can mitigate the risk for others to follow by appealing to an overall sense of responsibility while still encouraging creative thinking.
There will never be a shortage of people who “would have, could have, should have.” So take the leap of faith! Innovative leaders know they can fulfill their potential by making it possible for others to be fulfilled too.
Want to learn more about how to be an innovative leader?
Send us and email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415.524.7679.
Bode won’t be skiing at this Olympics, he retired last October. But you can still catch Bode at this Olympics as a color commentator for NBC.
Want to read more about Bode?
If you think Bode Miller is fascinating and want to learn more, here is some great additional reading:
- Mindset of a Medalist: Scientists explain how the brain can lead to Olympic Gold
- How Bode Miller became a self-taught Genius
- Former Olympic Skier Bode Miller on his ‘Naked Boy’ upbringing
Learn more about our approach: