Running the Race as Leaders
This is a guest post by Stephanie LeBlanc. Stephanie is the practice administrator at TotalCare Hulen in Fort Worth, Texas. She also holds other leadership positions including president of her accounting firm, as well as Project Connect Texas, a non-profit organization she founded to serve the Dallas/Fort Worth community.
- Wes Saade, M.D.
Lessons in leadership can be learned anywhere. During a recent race, my sister and I began discussing all of the things we love about the running community. There seems to be an unwritten code between runners that really emulates strong leadership.
I signed up for my first 5K in 2011 with my mother and immediately noticed a real sense of community at the event. We were brand new, very slow, and thought 3.1 miles on foot was definitely some form of torture. Some time later, during my third race, a woman I had never even met was cheering me on as she passed me at a turn-around. After the race, she came up to me and commended me for being there. Four years later, she is still one of my biggest motivators and encouragers, even though she is much stronger and faster than I. She is an amazing leader who embodies what I consider the three rules of the running community:
1 – If you show up to the race, you are a runner.
I wouldn’t naturally consider myself a runner. Most of the time, I’m a walker. It is incredible though; if you ask others on the course, we are all runners. Anyone can be a runner. It doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow, if you have been doing it for twenty years or ten days. You don’t have to receive formal education or belong to a runner’s club. You just have to show up and put one foot in front of the other.
Isn’t this true in leadership as well? We all start somewhere. It isn’t about how long you have been doing it or whether you have a fancy title. You are a leader when you consistently show up, commit to the principles of leadership, and put them into practice one at a time.
2 – Regardless of your role or position in the race, be a cheerleader to someone else.
If someone is struggling, you cheer them on. If someone is hurt, you comfort them. And you tell everyone who passes you, “Good job!”
During the course of a race, you are likely to pass someone who is having a hard time. Maybe they are new and pushing themselves, or maybe they are suffering through an injury and they just want to finish to prove to themselves that they can. No matter what their struggle, you cheer them on. You tell them they can do it. You pat them on the back because you have been there at one point. You yell and scream for them, because sometimes people just need someone to believe in them.
When someone gets hurt on the course, you take a moment to comfort them. I have seen runners who have never met each other pick up injured competitors and carry them to medical staff or across the finish line. You feel compassion for them because we all fear getting hurt on the course. We all fear not being able to finish what we started.
And everyone who passes you gets a, “Good job!” or, “Almost there!” or, “You can do it!” The community of veteran runners encourages beginners. As a beginner, you congratulate runners who are passing you because you know their hard work and dedication got them there. As a veteran, you congratulate runners you are passing because you know how hard it is to get started.
Likewise, as leaders, our goal is to encourage people to be the best that they can be. We need to stand behind those who are struggling and be their biggest cheerleader. When someone is hurting, or doubts their ability to lead, we need to pick them up and support them. We should be commending others, both old and new, for being bold and daring enough to be a leader.
3 – Continually compete against your best self.
Always strive to be better than you are. One of the reasons I love leadership and running is, the goal in both is to be better than you currently are. At no point in running are you ever satisfied with your personal record. We are continually trying to beat our best. The only way to do that is to continually push ourselves.
What I have learned most about leadership from the running community is that we are all leaders. We are all at different points in our journey. And we all need to be encouraged and to encourage others. There are no other people who understand the struggles of leadership more than our community of leaders. Practice leadership one step at a time. Motivate and be supportive. And strive to continuously be better than you currently are.
Practice Administrator, TotalCare
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