“We all know that if you run, you are pretty much choosing a life of success because of it.” – Deena Kastor
It’s been said that we should run the race that is set before us, to obtain the prize, that’s a great picture of a purposeful life. I used to run when I was younger and noted that those who prepared well ran well. Runners endure bad weather and pain, successfully meeting every challenge to finish and win the race.
Preparing for any race requires focus, strategic planning, mental toughness and endurance. Using the race analogy for leading well, I thought to write a simple way to run the leadership race more effectively. I hope you will not only run well but finish well and obtain the prize.
1) On Your Mark: First Things First
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen R. Covey
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines priorities as;
1: the quality or state of being prior
2: precedence in date or position of publication
3: something is given or meriting attention before competing alternatives
There isn’t a leader who hasn’t grappled with “competing alternatives,” it comes with being responsible for making things happen, especially if you’re a creative thinker. Prioritizing enables you to identify and focus on your most important responsibilities, so you’re not diverting your attention to “competing alternatives.”
John C. Maxwell says, “Leaders never advance to a point where they no longer need to prioritize. It’s something that good leaders keep doing, whether they’re leading a billion-dollar corporation, running a small business, pastoring a church, coaching a team, or leading a small group.” (1)
Maxwell also suggests you answer the three R questions, and be sure to include all areas of your life especially family.
• What is required of me?
• What gives the greatest return?
• What brings the greatest reward?
Once you have answered those three questions, create a list of the things you are doing that don’t fit solidly into one of the three Rs. You need to delegate or eliminate these things.” (1)
2) Get Set: Fixing Your Focus
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.” – Zig Ziglar
Living a focused life gives us direction. When you are clear on your objectives, knowing your “why,” your thoughts, decisions and actions point in one direction.
Focusing all you do on your purpose is a much more effective use of your time. Runners never lose sight of what race they’re currently running and have a good sense of where the finish line is. Successful runners are focused on running regardless of the type of race they’re in, in the same way, leaders are focused on leading regardless of the situations they’re in.
Sasha Azevedo says, “I run because it’s my passion, and not just a sport. Every time I walk out the door, I know why I’m going where I’m going, and I’m already focused on that special place where I find my peace and solitude. Running, to me, is more than just a physical exercise… it’s a consistent reward for victory!” Like the runner, never lose sight of your main objective.
3) Go: Fearlessly Moving Forward
“You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” – Rosalynn Carter
Simon Sinek says, “Greatness is not born from one success. Greatness is born from persevering through the countless failed attempts that preceded.”
When running longer distances you’ll inevitably experience discomfort and sometimes will have to run through painful experiences. Maxwell relates some painful experiences; he’s endured during his leadership marathon;
“The Pain of Inexperience— I expected instant success early in my career but stumbled often because of my immaturity. I had to learn patience and earn respect and influence from others.
The Pain of Responsibility— Leading organizations and having many people depend on me has required me to think of others’ well-being, continually create new content, keep my calendar full, and constantly meet demanding deadlines. This has been very tiring. But it also has taught me a lot about priorities and self-discipline.
The Pain of Hard Decisions— Wanting everyone to be happy and making tough decisions were incompatible tasks. I learned that good leadership is disappointing people at a rate they can stand.
The Pain of Relationship Losses— Striving to reach my potential has separated me from friends who had no desire to grow. As I developed new friendships, I learned to build relationships with growing people who wanted to take the journey with me.” (2)
Like all good runners you will sometimes have to run through the pain to finish the race.
“If you want to win something run 100 meters. If you want to experience something run a marathon.” – Emil Zatopek
1) “The Law of Priorities,” The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C.
2) “The Law of Pain” (read John’s entire list.) “The 15 Invaluable Laws of
Growth” by John C. Maxwell