The Power of Disadvantage

Olympic athletes Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the USA tumbled over each other in the women’s 5,000 meter race. It was tragic. But what happened next was magnificent.

D’Agostino stopped to help Hamblin. USA Today reported that D’Agostino stopped, reached out, and said, “Come on, get up. We have to finish the race.”

trust is largely a matter of serving another's advantage

The power of disadvantage:

D’Agostino disadvantaged herself for a competitor.

What happens when leaders disadvantage themselves for others?


Trust is largely a matter of serving another’s advantage. When push comes to shove, will you close your heart or open your hand?

Teams trust leaders when leaders disadvantage themselves for the advantage of others.

  1. Do you reserve “glory” assignments for yourself? Distributing crumbs to the team and keeping the cake for yourself models self-seeking.
  2. How do you stand with your team when performance disappoints?
  3. How are you making time for coaching and mentoring?


USA Today reports the runner from New Zealand as saying, “When someone asks what happened in Rio in 20 years time, … She (D’Agostino) is my story.”

Disadvantaging yourself for another forges connection. Of all the things you do, connecting with people is essential to fulfillment, influence, and energy. 

Disadvantage has its advantages.

Give and Take

Adam Grant’s book Give and Take provides valuable insights for leaders dedicated to generosity.

  1. Encourage team members to innovate around their job description. Make space for people to modify tasks and responsibilities. Last year, I had a coaching client who worked with a new employee to write their own job description.
  2. Embrace a five minute favor. Find quick ways to help, after offering assistance.
  3. Allow people to help you. The practice of generosity includes receiving.
  4. Beware takers.

What guidelines might you offer for leaders who embrace the power of disadvantage?

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