I put “running” in quotes because honestly, there are small children who walk faster than I run, but as I jogged along this morning, I was struck by all the leadership lessons I’ve seen in my few weeks of running. Here are a few:
Keep your head up. I have a tendency to look at the ground right in front of my when I run – this is an act of self preservation, so I don’t trip. However, my pace, posture and stamina increase (not to mention I don’t look like a hunchback runner) when I lift my head and keep my eyes on the horizon. It only took a few blocks to train myself to see the driveway dips in my peripheral vision so I didn’t trip. As leaders, we are all tempted at times to keep our eyes on the details right in front of us, leaving the future, the goal, the horizon in our peripheral. This limits our ability to move forward and to take corrective action until it is almost too late.
Have a plan. In week 5, I discovered that I wasn’t getting any further than I had in week 4. In fact, my pace had slowed way down. Halfway through the week, I discovered the reason – I had only visualized myself getting to a certain point – after that point is a downhill portion of street, and I was avoiding going downhill because I’d have to climb it again. So, I mentally practiced going down and back up that hill every time I drove past it for 2 days – on my next run, I was able to go almost 2 blocks farther than my sticking point. My pace and distance were increasing again.
Adversity is your friend. During week 4, I injured my knee. I ran the track, and since it was all flat, my body rebelled. My knee and calf muscle cramped up and it took 3 days for it to relax. On day 2, I went running again, back to the hilly sidewalks of my area, and got the best pace time ever (before or since). A slope of only 3 degrees can reduce pressure on your knees by 24%. It is harder to climb that hill, but your body will like you better, and actually, for reasons I don’t understand, I tend to go faster uphill.
Challenge helps you. Sometimes as church leaders, we wonder “why is it never enough?” “Why do I try every week to get better? Why am I never satisfied?” Running gave me the answer. When I don’t push myself, when I don’t have a new goal, I get complacent. Having a new goal makes me better at the basics. I bring my best when I’m pushing to a new height. I bring mediocrity when I am satisfied. With running, and I’m sure with leadership, it helps to have someone who can help you reach for the next level – to not be complacent. This might be a coach, or it might be a ‘running partner,’ like the women in my Mastermind Group.
After six weeks, I noticed that my body likes running. Okay – it doesn’t like getting out of bed, and it complains for the entire run (some might call it a fast waddle) – but when I am done, my serotonin levels are up, and I sleep better at night if I ran in the morning. Living up to the personality and giftings God gave us can be stressful, but there is no better sweet spot.
What are your “uphill battles” of leadership? Are you living in complacency, or finding daily challenges?