Few athletes have earned the right to lead with bravado more than Mike Eruzione during the past 50 years. Eruzione, the captain of the 1980 U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team, scored the game-winning goal to defeat the Soviet hockey team at the Lake Placid Olympics.
Even after 42 years, the Eruzione name continues to be highly regarded and is a top motivational speaker. He is sought-after for his leadership advice and guidance. Here are some key takeaways that Eruzione recently provided in a Q&A with Business Observer.
What are the characteristics of a good leader?
“I don’t think you wake up and one day and say I’m going to be a good leader. Being a good leader is based on your personality. A good leader is someone who is a good person, a good teammate and a good friend, someone who works hard, someone who your teammates respect on the ice and off the ice, and on the field and off the field.”
What did you learn about leadership from Team USA Coach Herb Brooks?
“Herb is like your dad. You know how love your dad, but you hate your dad, because he will make you do the things you don’t want to do? That was Herb. But the most important thing is we trusted Herb, and we respected Herb. And if you are a leader, I don’t care what business you are in, if the people you lead don’t respect you and don’t trust you, you are in trouble. Two of the qualities Herb had right away were trust and respect.”
Nearly half of the 1980 U.S, hockey team consisted of players who were captains of their college hockey teams. How and why were you chosen captain?
“Herb knew my personality — and he knew I just went with the flow. When I was made captain, it was just about being yourself. I’ve been around a lot of successful people, and sometimes, the more success they get, they change and become someone different. In my case, when Herb made me captain, I think he knew I wouldn’t become somebody different. But even though I was captain, Herb still threatened to cut anybody, which is just the way he coached,”
What have you learned about being a better leader as you’ve gone through your life and post-hockey career?
“I haven’t changed. Nothing really bothers me Nothing really fazes me. I just enjoy life. But I don’t wake up in the morning saying ‘I’m going to be a good leader.’ I wake up in the morning and say ‘I’m going to be a good person.’
The important thing for me is to stay true to who I am. If we didn’t win (the Gold Medal) I’d still be living in Winthrop, I’d still be married to the same girl, I’d probably have more kids. I wouldn’t have the money I have, income-wise, because I wouldn’t be doing the things I’ve be doing. But why change?”
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