Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Lenny: Well I got here through a lot of different life circumstances and experiences. First of all, being an immigrant and coming to this country old enough to understand the sacrifices my parents made a for better life has definitely shaped me and my character. Being someone who grew up in the Soviet Union and in a completely different culture has taught me to never underestimate opportunities that come my way. One of my earlier challenges was during the first few years in America not knowing the language and trying to assimilate into America culture.
Certainly not being a good enough of a swimmer out of high school and not getting any interest from colleges was an eye-opening setback. However, this experience taught me to look within myself and evaluate what I need to do better in order to become a better swimmer and get noticed.
A number of injuries that I experienced between 2000 and 2004 was really challenging for me. After winning three gold medals in the Sydney Olympics, I felt that I was only getting started and my best years and performances were ahead of me, but unfortunately I kept getting injuries that required surgeries. After every surgery I felt that I was going back to square one and needed to start all over. Through these injury experiences I really came to value patience, looking for positives within negative situations, and most importantly, to continue to believe in myself no matter what the circumstances are.
I am a very trusted person and I try to see good in everyone, but unfortunately, I had some setbacks in my business because of it. Some people that have worked for me took advantage of my trust for their benefit only. Although it’s hard for me to lead a company and not be myself, I am certainly more cautious with the people I hire and the trust I put in them.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Lenny: In my mind, the defining qualities of a leader are being a great communicator, passionate, leading by example and always being open to learn from the people that you lead. Taking leadership to the next level requires constant learning, risk taking, patience and confidence.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Lenny: Through all of my experiences in sports, as well as in business, I have found these tips to be essential to achieve greater success:
– Be passionate about your cause
– Treat everyone around you with the same respect and honor that you would want to be treated with
– Appreciate and celebrate successes, but don’t get complacent — stay hungry and drive for greater accomplishments
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Lenny: The best single piece of advice I received was to be true to yourself. When you wake up in the morning and go brush your teeth, the person that’s looking back at you in the mirror is the only person that truly knows you.
Adam: From your experience, how do you believe anyone can grow in a meaningful way?
Lenny: I am a great believer in learning from people that have been successful in their own fields. Try to always be a sponge, be humble and learn from others how to be better than you are today.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Lenny: I consider working out to be a hobby for me. It is such a big part of my life and my daily routine that everything I do is directly and indirectly affected by it. I really believe in the quote: “a healthy body leads to a health mind.” I definitely feel that having a healthy mind allows me to make better thought-out decisions and better decisions in every aspect of my life.
Adam: What is something about you that would surprise people?
Lenny: Sometimes I get emotional when I watch athletes and teams win championships.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Lenny: Always be grateful and thankful for what you have. Most importantly, if you have your health, you have everything you need to fulfill your dreams and goals.