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You might think it’s a little bit strange that anyone would suggest running a marathon as part of a leadership development program, but that is exactly what I am advocating. I know from my own experience of having never run more than five miles before, to completing 11 marathons the impact this has had on my understanding of leadership and ability to lead.
Here are five reasons why running, or at least training to run a marathon, will help you develop into a better leader.
You might think that you’re too old, fat, unfit to run a marathon. But quite often, that’s exactly how our teams feel when we set them a big, bold goal or set a new ambitious target. They don’t feel they have the skills, the time, or the capability to achieve this new target.
Putting yourself through this big challenge, you will have that experience yourself, and it will help you learn how to address their concerns and help to get them on board with the new goal or objective.
The better we understand the feelings of our teams, their concerns, where resistance is coming from, the easier it will be for us to support them in overcoming it.
Understanding the importance of belief
People are not afraid of hard work; they are afraid of failure, and when they can’t see how they will succeed they will quit. I never thought I could run a marathon, but with some research, I saw how I could start by running 15 minutes a day, and by slowly building that up by five minutes a week after 26 weeks I would be in a position to run a marathon. That was a plan I could believe in. It was this that inspired me not only to start but also helped dozens of people do it with me.
It’s the same with our teams when we can show them how they will be successful; even if it’s a massive goal, they too will be become inspired.
Understanding the importance of early victories
While belief is important to get us started, those early victories help build our confidence and excite us about what we can achieve. That first run, our first 30-minute run, our first 5k, our first 10k, these are all key milestones – early victories that help us to continue on the journey.
Success builds confidence and confidence keeps us on the path to victory. As leaders, we need to learn to identify quick wins that will help motivate and build momentum.
Understanding that big successes are an accumulation of small successes
Nobody runs a marathon on their first run.
Big successes are more often than not an accumulation of small successes, and it’s these small successes that we need to take care of as ultimately they will help us achieve our goals. One of my favorite sayings is, “Aim high, start small, celebrate, and keep going.”
Persistence is a talent multiplier, and we need to help our teams become persistent. To keep making those small gains, those small improvements that will lead to big success.
Understanding how to create sustainable change
Running a marathon is not something that you can just do on day one. It requires you to change your habits, to change your thinking, and to develop new skills. But the good news is that these become permanent improvements, and you learn how to create sustainable change.You learn that this takes time but that the benefits, if not permanent are at least long-lasting.
Leadership is a marathon, not a sprint, and experiencing what is needed to run a marathon will help you become a better leader. It will teach you about goal setting, building belief and confidence, setting quick wins and how to create sustainable change that will lead to long-term success for your teams.