I'm a runner and I’m getting ready for a marathon in Honolulu after my last 2 marathons 14 years ago. Most of my runs over the last years have gone pretty well so when this August run did not go as planned and I ended walking the last 3 miles, I felt a little discouraged. I needed to remind myself that once in a while doing a run that’s tougher than the others keeps you humble, reminds you that you are human and prepares you for a longer run that may be even tougher.
Why being a leader is a journey and not a destination.
1. Not every day is going to go as planned. Many of the managers I work with are intelligent and open. Some are organized, others strategic, while others are very good at influencing and building relationships. But even with some of those strengths a curve ball, or a tougher day than usual, can surprise leaders.
2. Stay open to surprises, twist and turns. Leadership, work and life can present us with surprises and unexpected twist and turns. Changes are always happening internally, externally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Leaders have to be prepared, but once in a while they may meet changes, uncertainty and complexity that knock them for a loop. When they do they need to simply get back up, dust off, take a deep breath and keep walking.
3. It’s a new day, everyday. There is a reason why the new day is VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguity) –and that leaders need to be agile, adaptable and flexible with the constant changes. Staying open and ready to meet each day with curiosity and innovation helps us to stay in a discovery and learning mode. Staying stuck in the past, in “how we used to do it” and in old habits and behaviors, just equate to more pain and suffering. Being open, curious and exploring new ways of doing and being is a much more productive way of meeting each day.
4. The learning never ends. If there is one thing that might surprise some of the leaders I work with it is that learning as a leader never ends. This seems to surprise the leaders/managers who are excellent at what they do but may not have thought that there was something new to learn. After a couple of good years and excellent performance, a new challenge or new people may present themselves that can leave the leader feeling like everything has changed.
So what happened? Similar to being a leader, being an avid runner for years I ended up analyzing what went wrong with my run: I got out of the door too fast, did not bring water or gels to replenish and could have used my watch to measure my run/walk ratio since my phone battery could not endure for the whole run.
The week after I ran an 18-mile run, I purchased an iPod so that I could have music for the entire run. That same week, I won an Apple Watch and added an extra watch in case the charge did not last, and importantly, had plenty of gel and liquid.
Like my marathon partner said, "It’s normal to have an off run. They can’t all be great runs. What can you learn from this one?" It’s the same with life and leadership. We have our great days and are not so great days. When we have a couple of not so great days it’s important to hang in there to see what the day, the next week or the next month might bring.
I finished my 18 miles and now feel ready for the Honolulu marathon in December. In the meantime I have many more runs coming up to prepare for this marathon. Like I said being a leader is a journey not a destination. There is more in common between being a leader and training for a marathon than I realized.
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