Leadership is life. As a result, we can find lessons all around us that inform our ability to inspire, motivate, guide and deliver results through others. In the past, I’ve shared the connections I experience between leadership and my favorite avocation, paddle boarding. Sandra Mills shares her connections between leading and running in today’s guest post.
Effective leadership is important for successful team performance in business, education and sports. Personally and professionally, the ability to take control of the reins and set an inspiring example can benefit both the leader and those being led. Individuals who are seasoned runners probably already understand the parallels between running and leadership; if not, here are 10 powerful ways that running can help to make someone a better leader:
1. Focus. The top runners always know where they are going and are focused on reaching their goal. The same is true for all great leaders. If you’re not sure where you’re headed, how can those you are leading know where to go? A strong focus and the ability to stay the course are keys to success in both running and leadership.
2. Passion. The best runners have a true passion for the sport, and it’s this passion that allows them to persevere and break through comfort zones to new levels of success. The most inspiring leaders are the same way; a passion for and belief in the goal at hand is one of the most contagious and inspiring things a leader can bring to the table.
3. Confidence. This one is pretty straightforward: If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Confidence in yourself and your abilities is key to being both a great runner and a successful leader.
4. Decisiveness. Whether it’s a speed goal, a distance goal or the decision to alter your course due to a change in terrain or weather conditions, running sometimes calls for the need to take make a quick choice. Effective leaders are adept at assessing a scenario thoroughly and then taking action in an efficient manner.
5. Clarity of Purpose. Clarity goes hand in hand with decisiveness and confidence. Just as runners should know their strengths, true leaders know where they excel and how to “stay in their lane.” Clarity helps a leader know when to say yes and when to say no.
6. A fearless nature. The best runners aren’t afraid to push themselves once in awhile, and the greatest leaders are the same way. They know that taking a big risk can often pay off in a big way.
7. Determination. Running can require speed and endurance, but most of all, it requires determination. Even when it’s tempting to stop or give up, the best runners can draw from an inner well of determination. The same is true of great leaders, who then inspire their people to do the same.
8. Integrity. Whether it’s being honest during a race with team members or with themselves, the top runners have a deep integrity about the sport and hold themselves accountable. Likewise, leaders who have integrity generate loyalty and respect among those they are leading.
9. Humility. While confidence is important, a dose of humility should be present to balance it out. Runners know that when confidence becomes inflated to the point of hubris, mistakes and injuries can happen. Both great runners and great leaders temper their self-assuredness with the ability to be humble when the situation warrants.
10. Self-aware. The famous Greek phrase “know thyself” remains one of the most elemental but powerful pieces of advice ever packed into two words. Runners who are clear about their strengths and weaknesses are far more likely to thrive in the long run. Being self-aware allows you to play to your strengths while finding ways to build up or compensate for weaknesses. Great leaders are adept at doing this for both themselves and the team members they are leading. Sophisticated leaders know that not everyone thinks and acts like them; they support this diversity and use it for the benefit of the team.
It should also be noted that both running and leadership styles can vary. For example, while the Millennial generation (or “Gen Y”) has been called the “me, me, me generation” (selfish and unmotivated) those who actually spend time with them may find many of them to be quite motivated and determined — leaders in their own right. Ultimately, the true litmus test is in the results, and there are many paths up the mountain that will get you there.
Sandra Mills is a freelance health and career writer. She often writes about how people can stay fit and advance their careers.