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Leadership lessons from ULTRA running



My weekends have now become a retreat to my cave of moving meditation and where I reflect on the week that recently passed to understand what I can do better as a person, coach and leader.


This year, I was introduced to running because of the COVID-19 situation that forced triathlon races to close and severely limited training opportunities as swimming pools were shuttered and cycling was pretty much confined to a trainer in my own home.


I’ve never been a fan of running and I wrote about this before but sometime this year, I discovered the meditative and reflective power of moving on my own two feet, being in my own world and exploring places I never thought I would. Over time, I began to use these periods to reflect on issues and thoughts that I wouldn’t usually have the luxury for during the work day.


I never once thought there would be a correlation between running and leadership but as I embarked on this journey, the dots began to form and lines began to join them. Here are my reflections on what ultra running is teaching me as a leader:


LEADERSHIP IS NOT A HINDSIGHT SCIENCE

I’ve had times when I have contemplated stopping at a convenience store for a perk me up but decided otherwise at the last minute only to be plagued with cramping calves later on. Wishing that I had stopped before becomes moot and we simply have to deal with the consequences.


This is similar to leadership. Often times, we find ourselves being able to say in hindsight that there should have been another course of action but it would already be too late. There’s no looking back but only adjusting and moving forward. Maybe the road is harder but that’s why….


LEADERSHIP IS A TEAM GAME

On select occasions, I’ve had the tremendous honour of having pacers during my runs and they so much to keep my spirit up when it gets painful. They probably feel the pain as well but they do their best and this deserves commendation because they didn’t really need to.


The same applies to leadership and it reminds us of how our teams support the cause and work hard because they believe in something. They may not go the full distance with you but they sure as hell will try and that deserves more credit than our own efforts. And this leads to why….


THE PERFORMANCE OF A TEAM IS A REFLECTION OF THE LEADER

As a natural ascendency, leadership is a privilege and not an entitlement. With this comes the fact that leaders are no longer gauges based on their own performance but largely by the performance of their teams.


With great power comes great responsibility and this requires the leader to inspire, coach, guide and take their team to new heights and to provide ample opportunities for them to become better.


The focus is not on the leader anymore but how many under him/her have gone on to become better.


LEADERSHIP DOES GET LONELY

And this is something we have to get used to. Those long training runs on weekends? We’re pretty much alone without anyone following or talking to us but we have to get it done.


Similar to leadership, getting used to the space and loneliness is almost a pre-requisite. But the true test of how good a leader comes from the discipline to keep doing the right thing even when no one is watching.


LEADERSHIP IS A JOURNEY OF FAILURE

I’ve failed so many times whether it’s in my triathlon journeys or in my newly found passion for running I could probably do a stand up comedy about it.


The truth is that leadership is probably fraught with failures more than we give it credit for but this is the real test of resilience that life will always throw at us. How many of us can or are willing to be held accountable, dust ourselves off, gather our teams again and move forward?


LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT CLEAR COMMUNICATION

Imagine having to pace someone who doesn’t tell you how far they are eventually going to clock. That feeling of not knowing where the destination is will put off even the best of runners.


The same goes for leadership and having a clear destination that is articulated to the team is so important. Yes, not all will be able to go the entire distance because that’s life but along the way, they too would have gained so many life lessons that will develop them professionally and personally.


As I embark on this new and exciting journey on my feet, the lessons I have learned along the way are truly invaluable. I look forward to each session with renewed vigour as life truly shows why it is sometimes our best coach we can ever have.


And because I don’t say it enough, my everlasting gratitude to those who have always supported, guided and taught me so much along the way in your own little ways that are truly unique and enlightening.


Onward.

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