All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.
-John Kenneth Galbraith
Dedication, perseverance and hard work are three characteristic requirements for both, running a marathon and running a business and by donning both roles over the past few years, I have come to realise how both my worlds have not just intersected but also complemented one another. Maintaining a journal has always been an important life and work resource for me and so, it was but natural when I took up running a decade ago, that I would make detailed notes of my observations around running – for every kilometre covered, as well as observations about human behaviour– both my own, and those of others. Today, upon reading my journals from past years , I’ve come to realise just how much positive change and focus my marathoning has brought to my methods as a business leader.
Here are 2 aspects of marathoning that I believe have impacted my business vision and team-leadership skills the most, 2 more will follow in my next post.
Much like quality checks, reviews and feedback in the workplace, pacing gives runners and athletes an accurate measure of their capabilities. An important aspect of pacing in marathons, however, is the creation of Buses.
A Bus is a group of similarly paced runners who have a Bus leader – someone who commits to a finish-time for the group, and then motivates all bus members to meet that goal together. Because it is the leader’s bus, it is the leader’s prime responsibility to guide the bus at a pace comfortable to all, keeping in mind their aspirations as well as capabilities.
Once I had reached a personal pace milestone I was confident about, I decided to take the challenge by the horns, and lead a bus of my own – skipping the interim step of running on other people’s buses.
Leading a bus is a lot like leading a team– the leader possesses an unparalleled depth of knowledge to complete the task at hand and strives to bring out the best qualities of the team to achieve the desired goal. As a team leader, where I need to gauge my team members’ enthusiasm and commitment levels, and infuse them with energy and encouragement through tough terrain is just like a runners’ bus succeeding because of its leader’s vision.
Hard work + Smart Work = Optimal Results
Over the decades of experience I have had running marathons and leading JTCPL Designs, I have come to one important conclusion. While hard work is extremely important, it is only the combination of hard work coupled with smart work that derives optimal results. May this be in the office or on the racetracks, it is through this combination that one is able to steer away the uncertainties and instabilities to achieve anything.
A fellow-runner who mentors marathoners and me regularly helped me created a custom practice schedule that took into account my travel commitments and work demands. This way, I was able to strategically and systematically bring run practices into my everyday life and the results followed suit.
Today, I actively try and instill the ethos of hard work + smart work in my team. Don’t look to achieve the same level of performance every day. Life will get in the way and leave you feeling disheartened that you underachieved on the goal you’d set yourself. Instead, work smart, work along with the constraints and look instead to achieve the optimum output you can despite that day’s obstacles and surprises. End-goals will get met, and you will have avoided the daily mental-load of underachievement.
In the words of legendary marathoner Lynn Jennings, ‘Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body’
All long-distance runners come to appreciate this fact over time. Today I can say with confidence that my running has sharpened my grit and determination, and made me a more mindful and powerful leader than I ever could have been without it. Life’s Good. God’s Kind.