You can learn valuable lessons about character by watching Jeopardy contestants. Some of them engage in histrionic displays when they miss even a single answer. Others have the ability to exhibit grace if they miss an answer, and motor along steadily until their competitive edge returns.
Mattea Roach, a recent long-winning champion on the show, was a model of steadiness at every stage of her recent, phenomenal winning streak of 23 games that won her $560,983. Quite an achievement for a 23 year-old tutor from Canada.
At every episode Ms. Roach won, she projected an attitude of delighted surprise. But that’s not what I’m writing about today. Today, I am writing about the way she behaved when she lost her last game . . . by only one dollar. With the same warm smile that had become something of her trademark in all the episodes she had won, she turned to the woman who had just beaten her and smiled and applauded.
In other words, she was a good sport and a cheerful loser. Of course you might argue that she will return to the show for various winners’ tournaments in the future, so she didn’t really lose. But I think that misses the point.
Losing with grace, not with anger, is a hallmark of a good leader. On the opposite side of the coin, being a poor loser or someone who nurses grudges against successful competitors is sure to erode your image as a leader but, more importantly, make you less able to get things done. In business, it is even more effective to put minor personal setbacks and losses behind you, and to support your organization’s larger goals.
So, let’s all try to be good sports. Being a sore loser can never help you reach your goals or bring success to your organization and your peers. That’s a big lesson we can all learn from Jeopardy champ Mattea Roach – that charming young tutor from Toronto.