3 Leadership Lessons from the Boston Marathon

Finish Line

More than 36,000 people participated in the 2014 Boston Marathon, making it the second-highest number of runners in the marathon’s history. This year’s race, however, had less to do with winning or competition; it became a “national symbol of resiliency and determination to take back the finish line”, as CNN’s Ashley Fantz phrased it.

Leadership has many faces, times and places. These are the leadership lessons that stand out for me as I reflect upon this year’s marathon.

Leadership Lesson #1: People Need Purpose and Enthusiasm to Reach Their Goals

People rally when there is a sense of purpose and when they feel that their contributions are making a difference. Leaders who inspire others focus on building support for a cause. They listen to and understand what motivates people and they stimulate them to act.

Leadership Lesson #2: Emotion Drives our Most Productive and Satisfied Employees

It’s a simple truth that emotion drives us. It’s what stretches us to set and achieve our highest-level goals. It regulates how hard we work and how engaged we become in our daily activities. Yes, emotion can be messy and make some managers uncomfortable, but ignore it and you’ll not only surrender your greatest power, but you’ll turn off a major artery to success.

Leadership Lesson #3: Hard Work Pays Off

To our runners who have trained long and hard, sometimes, we forget that simple, good old-fashioned hard work can be the basis of success. For years, Thomas Edison tried to convince the world that his inventions were not the result of any great genius he had. “Genius is one-percent inspiration and ninety-nine-percent perspiration,” was the way he explained it. Michelangelo, the eternal artist, disputed the wonder of his own talent by saying, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.” One of the best kept secrets of success seems to be that success is usually preceded by hard work.

What lessons or insights can you identify from this year's marathon?

Tom Sullivan is an executive leadership and organizational development consultant with ProGrowth Associates.

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