Being a successful leader today is, among other things, a matter of endurance. Surrounded by uncertainty, what can make the difference is to focus on the long run.
A time ago, I used to go running. Running practice has interesting effects over body and mind: from the first time of suffering, completely out of shape and unable to think of anything else, to a no pain condition where the mind is freer and able to be more creative while enjoying the effort. A key thing to get to this liberating status of mind was working on my endurance, not only physical but mental.
At the beginning, one question always arose: why am I doing this to me? Instead of other type of effortless exercise and yet with the same impact in my health. I could actually practice a more rewarding workout, something with a better payoff.
I could have done that, and I would have missed the whole point. Because I didn’t exercise just to be fit, I needed this exercise as a way to empower my mind and liberate stress.
Clearly, my actions in the short run weren’t making me happy, but they actually provide me with greater happiness after a while.
And the change across the practice is what can be a leadership lesson; the relationship between effort and outcome is rarely linear.
A prolonged effort
We often make choices based on immediate results. The best return for the next time slot is many times the driver for our decisions. Despite we can no longer be sure.
In the middle of the mist, it’s very difficult to assess payoffs, and we can easily get lost and miss the right direction. This thought, the right direction, suggests we should be heading to fulfil our purpose and our vision, which must be established before this discussion.
Linda Hill points out that, especially during a crisis when you can’t see what’s coming, leading is not about steer the ship but super-empower your people, so you get all the innovation you can. Leaders should work on improving their endurance to avoid getting lost and lose sight of what is important for the organization.
We are talking about a leader who creates space and supports the process, a compass and not only the captain. Looking for the long run and not only taking care of the here and now.
Besides knowing why we do what we do, improving endurance has also to do with our contextual intelligence: to understand what’s going out in the current circumstances. Context matters and leaders need to pay attention.
Endurance doesn’t mean immobility and might have different meanings for different leaders. The ability to understand the limits of what we are doing and learn from experience is what could lead us to the future.
I’m not a runner any more. My context changed some years ago, and thus my decisions. Yet, I’m still working on improving my endurance, playing the long run while dealing with the fog.