If a slew of World Championship wins and three Olympic medals have taught Elana Meyers Taylor (pictured) anything, it’s that it truly takes a team to achieve any major accomplishment — and in order to be an effective leader, you have to show each member that they play a vital part in the group’s success.
“The greatest way to continually achieve is to make sure those you value the most know it and understand their contributions,” said Meyers Taylor, Olympic medalist for US Bobsled and 2019 Women’s Sports Foundation president. “All roles are significant in order to achieve a goal.”
An accomplished bobsled pilot, in September 2014 the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) made the move to allow mix-gender crews to compete in four-men bobsleigh, removing the restriction that kept women in their own separate two-person event. Two months later, despite having only four days experience piloting a larger crew, Meyers Taylor led her team to third place in the US trials, securing their spot to compete for the nationals team. A few weeks later in the season-opening North American Cup, Meyers — along with Canadian Kaillie Humphries — became the first women to compete with and against men in an international four-man bobsleigh competition.
Meyers Taylor relished the ability “to be in a position to completely challenge some people’s assumptions about female athletes,” calling it an honor and a privilege that made her excited for what the future holds for her sport. She said competing in the men’s field was one of the greatest highlights of her career, but it “definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
“Personally, it allowed me to grow as an athlete and as a person as I was in a leadership position of a very different group of people than I was used to working with,” she said. “It helped me grow as a leader to learn how to relate to my male teammates, and they taught me some very valuable lessons as well, such as unashamed confidence.”
The experience also taught Meyers Taylor that in any good team, leaders should continuously learn from those they lead and, on August 31, she will share her insights on collaborative leadership at the Women in Insurance Chicago event. In the opening keynote, Growing for gold, Taylor will dive into the years she’s spent competing in her sport at the highest level and the lessons she learned along the way, including the importance of the hard work she invested to reach her goals and why none of it would have been possible without her teammates.
Piloting your crew — whether it’s leading them down a bobsled run or into a meeting, whether it’s a large team or a small one, and whatever the gender of its members — comes down to the fact that leadership is an act of service, Meyers Taylor said.
“The service comes from the time you take to ensure that the members of your team are also accomplishing their individual goals within the greater goal, but also to ensure that they know how valuable they are to the mission.”
To hear more from Elana on what her success has taught her as a woman and as a leader, join her and other accomplished speakers for the Women in Insurance Chicago event on August 31.