So I recently celebrated a birthday. One of the goals I set for myself for this birthday was to run my first 10K (6.2 miles).
So I have shared before that seven or so years ago, I starting getting up at 5AM and praying for 30 minutes or so (some days more to cover than others!) and working out for 60-90 minutes. I chose early mornings because it would both be hard for me and allow me ample time before work day requirements would get into full swing! I do this practice seven days a week with some minor adjustments on weekends.
In preparing for this race, it wasn’t like I had to get ready in a day. I have been training and preparing for events like this one for years now so to speak. I did adapt my workouts to include longer runs and more challenging cardio workouts on the bike. Again, it was the consistency over time that prepared me for this challenge.
Leadership in today’s climate is similar. You aren’t going to be ready overnight and won’t have an immediate impact with the folks you are responsible for. It takes time to gain credibility and time to be an effective leader. So the first word I will share is Consistency. To be a leader worth following, you have to practice those disciplines of leading others over a period of time! Don’t get discouraged in tough times. Just keep grinding every day, taking care of your people, and looking to have influence all the time!
This race was advertised to be a challenge due to the hills involved along the course. With that in mind, several times a week I would run this ½ mile hill near our home over and over again. It is grueling some mornings running that hill in the dark (it’s in a cemetery no less). So this 10K would have those extra challenges or obstacles (hills) along the path.
Similarly for leaders, we will find those obstacles tougher at some points along our careers. I can’t imagine too many times as tough as what many of you are facing today. In facing these obstacles in this race, it was key for me to clearly Define The Win. It would be ridiculous for me to set a goal of winning the race. There were too many people much younger and more proficient at running than me. My win was twofold: reach my potential (run it in under an hour) and no one passes me on a hill (toughness moment). You all need to clearly define that win for your team based reaching potential each day and not based on what others are doing or some other metric. Everyone needs to know what success is, and we need to keep that target within reach!
During the race, I checked my time at each mile marker. At the first mile marker, I was 30 seconds ahead of pace. At the second mile marker, I was now about 30 seconds or so behind pace to reach my goal. At neither of these instances did I celebrate or panic. You see, it’s a 6.2 mile race. You don’t win or lose at a mile marker. You make some adjustments and stay focused on the goal. It’s the same way with leadership. Don’t overreact (good or bad) based on a day’s performance. Recognize great effort, learn from mistakes, adjust where you need to, but stay focused on the goal and just keep running. It’s a long race!
About mid-way through the race, I started to see water stations at every mile marker. I’ve been in shorter races before and never taken advantage of water being offered. However, this time, due to the heat, I accepted the water and was glad I did. I didn’t break stride, but I sure took that cup of cold water! As leaders, we need to be humble enough to know that there are times that we need to both Seek and Accept the Help of Others along the way!
As the finish line drew near, I emptied the tank and sprinted with whatever I had left to cross that line as quickly as possible. 58.50 time and no one passed me on a hill. There were much better times that day and all kind of recognition for age groups after the run, but that wasn’t the point of the day. Just a Simple Focus made the day a great experience! Similarly in leadership, just keep simplifying the key focus areas for your team and improve their experience at work! Managers that are either self-serving or just insecure thrive on complexity (desire to be the expert). Leaders look for ways to simplify so that everyone can benefit and be a part of the success!
We can learn a great deal about leadership from a 10K race:
Consistency is Key
Define the Win Daily
Don’t Overreact – It’s a Long Race
Seek and Accept Help
Simplify the Focus
For a copy of the book “Leadership Basics for Success” see: Blurb.com and search for the title. I wrote this short book several years ago to be used in supervisor leadership development.