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Fred is a marathon runner. He’s also part of my close family, so I get to follow his athletic and his professional career quite closely. He recently competed in the Ottawa marathon and, in doing so, he demonstrated several behaviors used by very effective leaders.

We find that a key leadership behavior is to set yourself tough, but realistic goals and then to plan and organize in order to achieve them. Fred decided on trying beat 3 hours 45 minutes for the 42.2 kilometer race. This would have been a best time for him, having already completed three previous marathons. He made and followed a simple, but effective training plan and adjusted it as he went along to make it more effective.

On the day of the race, the temperature quickly rose and, by mid race it was nearing 30°. Fred started to feel cramps coming, but despite the pain, he adjusted his pace and carried on. At the numerous hydration stations he walked rather than ran through them, accepting the fact that he was probably not going to be able to beat his best time, but he would certainly do his best given the heat. This pragmatic approach of focussing on what is actually possible and not on maintaining unrealistic goals is a classic effective leadership behavior.

Then, 4 kilometers from the finish, during a long grinding uphill stretch, the pain from the cramps got really bad. Fortunately, several family members, including me, were at that point to cheer him on. He later said that that made all the difference and enabled him to complete the race in a very respectable second-best time of 3 hours 49 minutes. This incident demonstrated another key leadership behavior, the determination to persist through difficulties. It also shows the power that positive encouragement can have on performers.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned competitiveness as a key leadership trait. Like all good leaders, Fred enjoys winning, but his main focus is on doing his best, and doing your best frequently results in being a winner. Paradoxically, just focusing on winning, mostly results in people not achieving their goals.

Professionally, Fred is also demonstrating excellent leadership behaviors and the results have been in a long and varied career in one of the World’s leading software companies.

And he’s already planning for his next marathon…

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Brownsugar TV
Brownsugar TV
16 jun 2023

Nice blog Colin, i must say that we always get so concerned in winning that most times, we forget the stumbling blocks along the way.... which will deter us from the goal. It is a good thing for a leader to foresee these when setting goals.

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