From canoeing champ to corporate leader: Global Villager shares insights at breakfast program
When you hear the word “leadership,” canoeing is probably not one of the first ideas that comes to mind. But a recent Iacocca Institute Leadership Breakfast Program delivered by a former Olympian and an alumnus of the Global Village program, did a whole lot to help connect these two seemingly disparate concepts.
Maxime Boilard, of Montreal, Canada, who placed fourth in the single-man canoe competition in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, also holds the distinction of being the first Global Village alumnus to speak at a Leadership Breakfast.
In 2004 he and his partner in the double-man canoe competition missed qualifying for the Olympic Games, an event that turned out to be pivotal in Boilard’s life.
“It was a failure for me and that got me to think,” Boilard said, and, he added, it allowed him to come to Lehigh for the Global Village program. “Something important happened then. (At the Global Village) I was with people from different countries and the goal was not to beat them.”
Instead, our goal was to build partnerships to make the most of our time at Lehigh and to serve our client best, Boilard explained. “I realized that I was already a canoeing has-been. I didn’t want people calling me because I was good at something seven years ago,” he said.
This realization and Boilard’s experiences at the Global Village laid the foundation for him to launch his own business in 2007, blending lessons from his past as an Olympic athletic with what he learned at the Global Village.
The resulting company, known as CANU, facilitates team-building programs for businesses and other organizations to help reveal their “true power,” according to the CANU Web site.
“The model we started working with is a metaphor. We said the organization is just like an Olympic team,” Boilard said. The CANU philosophy is based on the premise that while it is difficult to control the external environment, people can control themselves, Boilard explained. “Each person has an effect no matter where they sit in the organization.”
Drawing on his athletic background, Boilard compared the role of a coach to the role of a leader within an organization. “What the coach says to his crew is very simple ‘I succeed when you succeed,’” Boilard said. The role of a leader is to figure out how to help the people who work for them to perform at their best, he explained.
According to Boilard, a leader has to have the “super-vision” and make sure that everything is aligned with that vision. There must be a goal that everything is working toward. “Everything else is a waste of energy,” he said.
Boilard believes that a leader needs to strike a balance between giving his or her workers the freedom to do what they need to do and leading by example.
Being a good leader doesn’t mean you never “get wet,” he said. “Good leaders should desire managed instability. You want people come to you and say ‘Alright I am in control now. What is the next challenge you have for me?’”