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Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't think that you don't influence others...

If you know me, or have looked at this blog at all, you know my philosophy of leadership is very simple, it is written like a mathematical formula: Leadership = Relationships + Influence. It really is that simple and that complex.

Yesterday I competed in the OKC 1/2 Marathon with 6,500 other 1/2 marathoners (19,000 total runners in various events). It was an extremely humid day with 30 plus mph headwinds. And, not being familar with the course I did not realize that the last few miles (okay, the last 5 of the 1/2 marathon) were run on an uphill grade). Now any one of these three elements I can handle by themselves (just like most runners) but when you put all three together the dynamics change considerably.

Let's take the day from the beginning. The race started at 6:30 (AM). Rochelle and I left the hotel (yes, I made Rochelle go with me... thanks honey) at 4:30 and drove to downtown OKC. About 5:00 AM we attended the church service at the "Survivors Tree" and then I made my way to my respective chute (my goal was to run a sub 2 so I entered the "masses" at that entry point). The marathoners and 1/2 marathoners were all in the same location (about 6 city blocks... literally a massive wave of humanity). Trust me, you built relationships quickly, whether you intended to or not. Which proves my point that if there are at least 2 people together you have just become a leader and influencer... as long as someone is watching you you have become a leader. At 6:30 AM (I can't stress the AM part enough) the gun went off and a little over 3 minutes later our grouping finally began to move.

Everything was great, especially after the pack started to separate around the 2 mile mark. People found other runners to pace themselves against and observe. I chose a couple that I thought I could keep pace with. When they moved around traffic so did I. The first 8 miles were great and I kept an 8:45 pace consistently. I had chosen the right people to pace myself against. Then it all changed. Heading into the 9th mile we hit the "HILLS" of OKC. And not just the hills, but the 30 mph headwinds as well. The smaller clusters of runners got even smaller and people started falling away. I lost my pacers in the hills and just focused straight ahead best I could.

But this is where I think my leadership philosophy was proven true. I started paying attention, undue attention I'll add, to other runners. And even though I felt pretty good I noticed them struggling. And guess what? Yep, I started to struggle too. My 8:45 pace fell quickly to 9:30 and the hills and wind and humidity started to take their toll.

Reflecting back a day later, however, and I can now see that the hills, wind, and humidity (while elements of the race) did not have as much affect on me as my paying undue attention to the other runners. You see, they were unknowingly influencing me and therefore leading my approach to the race. We were already in relationship because of our participation in the race, and now we started to influence one another throughout.

Leadership = Relationships + Influence, hmmm. Now, this all happened unwittingly. And we all encouraged one another to finish strong (see, there's the Leadership equation at work again), but I wonder if I might have finished stronger if I'd have been able to keep my focus on different runners? I wonder if I unduely influenced other runners to slow down and struggle?

Lesson learned; pay attention to who I am focusing on and therefore allowing to influence me. Also, pay attention to my own actions that might be influencing others.

Oh, and if your interested? I finished with a 2:00:44 (an overall 9:45 pace). I felt good considering the conditions. By the way, according to the news last years men's marathon winner was 5 minutes off his pace and last years women's marathon winner collapsed 1:40 miuntes into the race.

Next time (yes, I'm going to do this again) I'm going to be more cognizant of my philosophy. Both for myself and others.

Just something to think about,

Lead Strong...

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