Leadership Is Like A Marathon: Part 5-The Finish

There really is nothing quite like the feeling of finishing a marathon.

Once you cross the finish line, if you are still standing and able to walk, the organizers wrap you in mylar to keep you warm and present you with a finisher’s medal.  

You grab your sports drink and some fruit and try and take in all that has just happened.

There is a deep sense of accomplishment.  

There is the realization that what you have been training for over the past four months has finally come to fruition.  

There is a sense of relief.  

You have done what a very small percentage of the people in the world have ever done. Initially, there is a very real moment of private celebration, hopefully followed by some public acknowledgement from your friends. Now you are ready to sign up for the next one. But it is actually a time of rest, recovery and reflection.

When I ran my first Boston Marathon I was not warned about the first 16 miles being net down hill–right before you start a five mile climb through the Newton hills. Because I had not trained myself with down hill runs I had nothing for Heartbreak Hill. Before I ran the next Boston I made sure there were plenty of downhill training runs in my regimen. You have to learn from your first race to prepare well for the next.

All of this has bearing on our leadership lives.

Leading must also include some completion points.

There needs to be a season where the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction are poignant.

Leadership must include celebration points along the way.  

If not, the grind of leading can ultimately cause you to burn out.

The problem in leading is that good leaders are always leading on more than one front.

Therefore, there is always one more mile to run.

So you never stop and take time to celebrate.  

That is detrimental to you and your followers.

Good learning rarely takes place apart from celebration and reflection. If you simply keep moving on you will surely keep leading in the same way you always have. You see, “to finish” can have some nuanced meanings. It can mean “to come to and end.” But it can also mean “to come to completion.” I know these sound very much the same. But, “to end” something is simply to cease from activity. To bring something “to completion” carries a more rounded sense of wholeness.

To bring something to completion in leading is to purposefully see a finish line, to acknowledge the contribution of others, to celebrate, to learn, and to plan again from a greater sense of experience and maturity.

Few people want to follow a leader that has no finish line. They also don’t want to follow a leader who doesn’t take them on a worthwhile journey. So keep leading, but build in some quality finish lines for yourself and those you lead.

If you follow the Apostle Paul’s three missionary journeys in the book of Acts in the Bible you will notice that each had a necessary finish line. You will also notice that each one was different because of his ongoing learning through leading.  

Lead well, finish well!

(photo credit)

4 replies
  1. markallenmayers
    markallenmayers says:

    Well, my friend, having walked (run) where you have, I have really enjoyed these last 5 posts…thanks for your insights relative to leadership as allagorized through marathoning!

    • garunn
      garunn says:

      Thanks Mark for the encouraging comments-hope you are well. I know these are some tough days in light of Lori’s passing. Praying for you guys.

  2. Raymond
    Raymond says:

    A great series of articles Gary. I can reflect on the analogy as I never had the inclination to put my body thru 26.2 grueling miles. It does bring to mind though how difficult it would be to cover the distance alone and how much easier it would be with a team. From my perspective I look upon everyone in the team as individual leaders and it is their personal acceptance and buy in that integrates the team. Each one of them has individual skills, values and experiences they bring to the team. From a business angle this is fantastic position to be in and surely that enterprise will perform far better than without such individual spirit. May I offer for consideration a sustainability model that underpins and provides consistency to the leadership aspirants not only in business but in their personal and community lives and any other marathons they intend to run. I have observed for over 35 years many different behaviors and approaches; and as you can imagine there is a wealth of knowledge and advice available. In fact so much that it is hard to digest and retain. I have done all the heavy lifting and reduced them to a common mindset for consideration and practice. I have developed the MYCASKI personal reminder that powerfully provides the stimulus that increases performance day after day in everything that you do; especially if you are thinking of another 26.2 miles. I hope that this will be of interest to you and your readers and please by all means make use of it. The following link spells out the reminder in an easily remembered form ie MYCASKI MYCASKI MYCASKI.
    Kind Regards Raymond.
    Twitter: @mycaski


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