Leadership is a Marathon of Self-Discovery

Last Updated: August 31, 2020

Ever feel so done, depleted, and empty that you wonder if you can show up, never mind lead? Well, join the damn club…

But Know This: “You Are Not Alone”

We all feel this way (or those of us interested in telling the truth are), and that is because leadership, like life, is a marathon, not a sprint.

Some years ago, I ran a marathon, pretty unprepared: some miles more grueling than others, especially mile 2 through 26.2. How I felt during that November day in NYC is how many executives feel when they are at the negotiation table, navigating the boardroom, thinking about how to lead their 9000 employees through COVID, or dealing with hurricanes of challenges at home like parenting, marriage, bill paying, and sick loved ones. When life feels more tsunami than easy flow, my words are often “Lord have mercy, will it never end?”

And Here’s The Worse Part For Leaders

To add salt to the wound, as leaders we are often unprepared to run the race, which means we find ourselves worn slap out, as they say in the South. I might not have prepared for the marathon, but it prepared me. I couldn’t even … and yet I did. I ran that marathon to get in touch with that badass warrior who loves fiercely, fights for her tribe, and now makes self-affirming decisions while urging others to do the same.

Marathons, of all kinds, are designed to be tough, so we understand the importance of doing life alongside those who call us to be our best and to connect more deeply to the God that gave us the gift of running the race set before us.

The Self-Discovery Race: It is Never About the Marathon

I had nothing left during the last 3 miles; I was painfully aware it was not about the marathon but about self-discovery and doubling down on the rising-up, not the tapping-out.

Here are a few pieces of wisdom I have learned from the many marathons I have run, one literally, and many more figuratively:

Know Leadership Is a Mile-By-Mile-Journey

Doing self-discovery means there are no short-cuts or detours. Everything comes back to the path we are privileged to run. We were sent here to do it. Connect deeply with yourself and the path you are called to travel.

Know Leaders Must Remember to Invest Well

What we invest in when things are going our way, is what we pull from during the tough day. Invest well. Develop spiritual practices. Anchor yourself in the God of your Understanding. And I hate to break it to you, but your money, likes, and outside solutions are not God. Tie yourself to the only Real Thing, my dear people. You will need it.

Know We Are All Recovering From Something

To recover means doing emotional and spiritual work-outs so we can own our stuff instead of it owning us; it is the most courageous work you will ever do. Find ways to strengthen the muscles of honesty, resilience, empathy, willingness, and acceptance. This emotional-spiritual-fitness will carry you up the hills you think you can’t climb.

Know That You Need A Strong Cheering Section

None of us benefit from people falsely cheering us on if they can’t and don’t admit they have struggled and have been depleted. The quality of your life mirrors the quality of your connections; wisely choose the ones who cheer you on and run with you.

Know That People Do Not Trust Perfect

While I truly know that life is joyful and beautiful, it also breaks us wide open with grief, sadness, fear. Being honest about how shitty parts of life can be, makes us more authentic. Life is not a 21-gun-salute to positivity even for those of us who do truly believe the glass is half-full.

Know How To Back Energy-Vampires The Frig Up

Run toward the energy that renews. Be discerning, because everything and everyone either adds to or takes away from your energy. The quality of energy within us and around us either drains or depletes us. … seriously. Fuel up carefully.

Self-Discovery: The Gift that Keeps Giving

Self-discovery is not for the faint-hearted, neither is running a marathon and yet it is so rewarding.

Nick, a client of mine, found tremendous renewal by spending a chunk of time daily, connecting deeply with himself; he was able to run the race at work with less stress and more awareness.

He was promoted into a much bigger job and worked smarter while empowering his people more. I have also seen executives revamp their cultures, enhance engagement, carve out time to meditate, and realize that what is stressing them out is not the problem once they invest in themselves consistently.

Self-discovery is priceless because it:

  • allows you to dig deep and courageously accept all of who you are
  • uncovers your true essence and transforms you in ways that matter
  • connects you, in healthier ways, to others
  • guides you to choose courage over comfort
  • fuels you during times of doubt
  • strengthens the compassion you have for yourself, and therefore, others
  • helps you to understand that we surrender so we can win
  • anchors you in God’s presence

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