Diana Nyad, 6 Leadership Lessons

Above:  Diana Nyad at Tedx Berlin in 2012

By now, you’ve heard Diana Nyad, a 64 year-old endurance swimmer, swam from Cuba to Florida.  There are great leadership lessons in her accomplishment:

  1. Never give up.  This was her fifth try.  What a lesson about commitment.  This is spot on with what Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
  2. Trust your team.  This same trek–from Cuba to Florida–was done twice before, most recently by Susie Maroney.  Nyad’s the first to do it without a shark cage.  Part of her team included scuba divers who swam with her on the lookout for sharks.  Talk about trust!
  3. Believe in yourself.  Her first try was when she was 29 (Maroney did it at 22 with a shark cage that in addition to providing protection, lessens the waves).  It would have been understandable if she rationalized, “If I couldn’t do it at 29, how could I do it at 64?”
  4. Set small goals that align with the overall goal.  When she jumped into the water, she said her goal wasn’t to swim from Cuba to Florida.  Her goal was to swim until dusk.  At dusk, her goal was to swim until dawn.  She kept repeating these interim goals until she reached the shores of Florida.
  5. Overcome adversity.  If you’ve read about her life, you know she’s was dealt a horrible blow as a child.  Similar to never giving up, she’s proven we’re empowered when we focus on what we can do vs. what could hold us back.
  6. Be thankful of the team.  A few miles before Florida–exhausted, hungry (she couldn’t hold food down and kept throwing up in the ocean) with lips so blistered she was barely understandable–she stopped and treaded water.  She thanked her support team who were in surrounding boats.  She knew that while the light may shine on us as individuals, we are not possible without the support of others.