High Performance Leadership

active CEO Podcast #49 Alex Baumann High Performance Leadership

High Performance Leadership

On this episode of the Sportspeople Recruitment active CEO Podcast, Craig Johns speaks with Alex Baumann about overcoming tragedy to win two Olympic Gold swimming medals, transforming coaches of high performance into high-performing coaches, high performance leadership, and his new role as Chief Strategist High Performance at Swimming Australia. We also dive into being a swimming parent, balancing wellness and performance, the importance of empathy and building trust, and the principles of high performance leadership.

Alex Baumann

Alex Baumann sets very high standards, doesn’t settle for mediocrity, and has a proven record in leading successful teams and sport organisations. He is one of the worlds’ leading sports administrators, International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, husband to Australian swimmer Tracey Taggart and humble sporting parent of two International swimmers.

He was born in Prague Czechoslovakia, however grew up in Canada winning two swimming gold medals and setting two world records at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Alex holds an Honours degree in Political Science from Laurentian University, a Graduate Diploma of Education from the University of Queensland, and holds an Honorary Doctorate from Laurentian University.

His career has included working as a sports administrator in Canada, Australia and New Zealand with roles as CEO and Executive Director roles at of Queensland Swimming, Queensland Academy of Sport, Canada’s Road to Excellence Program, Canadian Olympic Committee’s Own the Podium, High Performance Sport New Zealand and is currently the Swimming Australia’s Chief Strategist, High Performance.

Alex talks about:

  • When you have some success early on you want more.
  • Swimming with the Dr. Jeno Tihanyi and the legendary coach James ‘Doc’ Counsilman.
  • Winning the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games 200m IM and 400m IM swimming gold medals in World Record times.
  • Coping with the tragedies of losing both his father and brother.
  • A majority of Gold Medallists have had to deal with some sort of trauma.
  • The pressure of being the current world record holder going into an Olympic Games.
  • Balancing athlete wellbeing and high performance.
  • Transforming coaches of high performance into high-performing coaches.
  • You get the best out of athletes when you can empower them.
  • Winning when it matters to inspire a nation.
  • Embracing pressure, rather than seeing it as a negative.  
  • How Wilma Shakespeare guided his introduction to sports administration.
  • The ability to challenge in a way that doesn’t offend people.
  • The differences in High Performance leadership in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
  • How a CEO or leader balances resources versus being resourceful.
  • Sometimes we get too complex to get that additional 1%.
  • There was not one word of winning in the Swimming Australia High Performance strategy.
  • One of my challenges is ensuring I have enough balance between work and family life.
  • The importance of urgency and the need to react quickly.
  • You have to keep doing new things and reinventing yourself through new things.
  • What drives each individual?
  • Once you think you know it all, you are dead in the water.

Active CEO Wellness Tip

Commitment To Excellence – Own where you want to go, constantly work at it, have the discipline to strive for excellence around how you are going to do it and why you are going to do it and make sure you put that plan into action. You need to commit to excellence if you want to be excellent.


“Pressure is a positive thing as ultimately it gets the best out of us. Obviously if there is too much you get stiff, you just cant perform, The negative thoughts come into your mind and the pressure gets to you. Embrace it versus letting it consume you.” Embracing pressure with Alex Baumann, on the active CEO Podcast.

“When I got to the Olympics I had been through it all. You could throw anything at me and I would still be able to perform.” Alex Baumann on overcoming adversity, on the active CEO Podcast.

“I can’t worry about external things. I have to just concentrate on what I have to do. I have done the physical preparation, I am psychologically ready, I’ve competed against all these guys and I have beaten them.” Alex Baumann understanding the pressure of being an Olympian, on the active CEO Podcast.

Resources Mentioned in this show:

Alex Baumann LinkedIn
Alex Baumann Wikipedia
Swimming Australia www.swimming.org.au
International Swimming Hall of Fame Bio
NRG2Perform www.nrg2perform.com
Craig Johns craig@nrg2perform.com
Craig Johns LinkedIn

Recommended Reading:

Swimming With Alex Baumann: A Program for Competitive and Recreational Swimmers link