Elana Meyers Taylor: A Leader on Ice and in Life
When it comes to unlocking the leader inside, 2-time Olympic medallist Elana Meyers Taylor knows how to set goals and push herself to achieve them. Perhaps this is no surprise to anyone familiar with her achievements in bobsledding, a sport in which Elana says “push is everything.”
As a recent graduate of DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management, having earned her Master’s degree in Business Administration, Elana has taken the concept of push – and leadership – to the next level.
Elana’s competitive spirit has helped her advance her winning record. Her athletic career already included a bronze medal for Team USA in women’s bobsled at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and a silver medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. She now reigns as World Champion, since winning the 2015 World Cup bobsleigh title in Women’s Two-Man.
She has also made history as one of the first two women to race against men in a four-man World Cup bobsled competition, a race that has previously been reserved for men’s competition only. She served as pilot for her team, which included three male athletes behind her on the bobsled.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, she is also an accomplished student, having earned her second master’s degree, this one an MBA with a concentration in Finance. Elana already had a master’s degree in sports management, but realized as a competing athlete that she could benefit from a better understanding of the business behind the sporting world. She decided on Finance for her program concentration. It’s an area which she felt would be instrumental in meeting her long-term goals.
To find out more about what keeps Elana motivated in life, we recently asked her about goal setting, her education, and her drive to be a leader in sports, as well as business.
Her answers are truly inspiring!
Q: As a bobsled pilot, you steer for the team. In a sport that requires a certain level of bravery and confidence, driving the bobsled is an additional responsibility. How do you handle the accountability and importance of that role?
A: “Personally, I feel being the driver is a little less formidable than being in the back. I was a brakeman for 3 years, and the fear there is the reality that you have no control from back there; you really have to trust this person who is steering you.” She adds that yes, as a driver in a high-speed event, there is an element of fear. “You’re always aware that something can happen…bad crashes do happen… but I actually live off that fear, too. On the bobsled you really have to look fear in the face.” Now she competes on high-performing team of a 4-man bobsled, with three men behind her, and her husband is one of them. “Pilot is a position of control, and a challenge. Which works for ‘control freaks’ like me, who have a Type A personality. I’m really glad [my husband] is behind me, but there are big things at stake when we race.”
Q: In your TEDx talk on what you’ve learned at 90 mph, you compared what it takes to compete on a bobsled team and what it takes to succeed in life—what about what it takes to complete your degree? Which of your skills or traits helped you the most?
A: Elana feels adaptability is the key – what she calls her “willingness to go with Plan B,” both in life and in competition. She explains that it is rarely a Plan A that takes you all the way through a bobsled race. “You have a Plan A, everyone needs a Plan A, and it’s often the same one for all of us, which is to find the best line on the ice… but things happen.” The critical question becomes what do you do then, how do you adapt? Elana says it’s the same with earning your degree: life happens, so the best life plans need to have some flexibility.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who isn’t sure they can handle advancing their education while attending to all the other areas of their life like work, family, etc.?
“The advice I have is just get started. My goal is to learn as much as I can, so for me, it was just a matter of taking the steps and getting started. And also: ask for help. I know among my friends on the U.S. Olympic team, a lot of us are Type A people…we want to believe we can do it all. But we learn we need good people around us to succeed. We can meet more challenges with a strong team. I even learned to ask my husband for help around the house! So reach out, and you’ll find more people are willing to help you than you might think. Once you get started at Keller, you’ll realize your staff and professors will be there for you. Your professors are good people, they’ve worked hard in their own fields and they understand your strong desire to win. They are leaders, too and they will work with you.”
Q: You scored an amazing internship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to add to your resume, too. Tell us more about that—how will it help you as you move forward in your career both as an athlete and in business?
Elana remains grateful for her recent opportunity to intern with the IOC. “It was an amazing experience and I know it will directly help me in business in the future. I learned so much, especially because their financial model is so different than any other in the world.” Elana has stated one of her goals is to ultimately become the CEO of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). She is always looking for opportunities to make an impact and help people achieve more in life. “I have a passion for finding where I can make the biggest difference and help the most people. Whether I’m sitting with friends and I can help them with their goals, or maybe it will be my colleagues, and other athletes, who I can help with an understanding of business and finance, to support them in their own aspirations.”
Q: What is one characteristic you think every leader should possess?
“Willingness to learn. Bobsled is a humbling sport. I know that to lead, you have to stay humble, and open to learning. For example, I won my first three races this season. When it came to the fourth race, it seemed like I had everything down, and I felt it was an “easy” track – so because of that, I didn’t study it as hard. I underestimated it, and had a crash. I learned a tremendous amount from that race, and even from the crash, and it has helped me succeed.”
And it is that willingness to learn that has helped Elana blaze a trail through her master’s degree program at Keller while pursuing her athletic career. We can’t wait to see where that drive takes her next!
Learn more about DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management at keller.edu.
This entry was posted on Fri Oct 30 14:23:00 CDT 2015 and filed under