Being an athlete is a state of mind which is not bound by age, performance or place in the running pack. 
-Jeff Galloway

Jeff Galloway is a world-famous runner and coach who popularized interval training, or the Run, Walk, Run method as he calls it. We have become great friends over the years and I’ve had the honor to run several races with him and his wife Barbara. No matter if we are at mile one, or mile 12 he leads himself well and encourages everyone that he comes in contact with. 

I love Jeff’s quote because it captures the right thought process and mindset for runners and athletes. You could also easily replace a few words and see how it applies to our leadership walk. 

 Being a leader is a state of mind which is not bound by age, what others do or your place in the organization. 

There are several leadership lessons that we can learn from running. 

Patience leads to strength

It seems like all things worth doing are at least a little bit challenging to start, otherwise, everyone would do it.  It might feel discouraging after your first couple of runs. Keep at it and your strength will increase. It may also feel discouraging when you are in a new role and things aren’t happening as fast as you wanted them to. Keep at it and remain confident that your work is going to pay off.  

Consistency is key

I ran over 100 races between 2016-2018. It got to the point where I was running so many races that I didn’t need to run very often between events and I still could perform well. It culminated with my second ultra marathon. (Passing the Baton podcast #128: What 37.5 miles taught me) I did two things after that race.  #1 I stopped running. #2 I ate everything in sight. That pattern went on for five months. I gained about 20lbs and needed to get back in the swing of things to get my health back where I wanted it. 

My first run was a beautiful 56 degrees in Atlanta.  I should have had a great run but instead, I got ripped to pieces. My legs were killing me, my foot injury flared up and I clocked my slowest time in over 4 years. I knew I was going to be off my A game, but I didn’t realize it would be that much. 

Your leadership is the same way. You are going to pay some type of consequence if you let off of your standard, stop pushing yourself for growth, or fail to hold your team accountable. The consequence could be as small as some missed sales with customers or as large as being passed over for the promotion that you always wanted. Stay consistent to avoid the pains of ramping back up to your standard. It’s definitely easier to keep it going that it is to start all over. 

It is what you make it

Your enjoyment of running is exactly what you make of it. If you find some running friends or make it about the journey, you get a much more fulfilling experience. If you only focus on the negatives, (pain, tiredness, time investment, etc) then you’ll never like it and you won’t perform well. Likewise in your leadership and life walk, if you only focus on the excuses and circumstances that hold you back, you will never have fun or reach your greatest potential. 

Know who you are

Too many people think that because they aren’t “fast” that it means that they are not runners. If you are getting out there and hitting the road, trail or treadmill, you are a runner. It’s a state of mind, just as Jeff said.  You don’t have to lead 100 people to be called a leader. Do you lead yourself well? Do you try to help by being a great example for others? Then you are a leader. You don’t need a title before you can become a leader any more than a runner needs a medal before they call themselves a runner.

Running can teach us patience, the ability to find joy in the journey and how we can build strength through our consistency. Enjoy your run and your role as a leader. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

*You can catch some of the race recaps of my runs with Jeff and Barbara over at Thedisneyrunner.com