‘Man these shoes are fast…I can hardly keep up with them’ I thought as I tried out my new ultra light-weight Adidas running shoes for the first time. My legs were a blur as they pumped furiously just to keep in touch with the bright neon shoes that screamed, ‘look at this guy – make way, serious runner coming through’. Things passed in a blur, time seemed suspended and the theme tune from Chariots of Fire played loudly in my head.
All right, I admit I was running on a somewhat dilapidated and noisy hotel treadmill, staring at a blank wall as I did so, but it still felt like I could run forever. It still seemed as though, given half a chance, an Olympic gold was not out the question. I was a new man, impregnable, Thor-like and simply poetry-in-motion.
That’s what new running shoes did for me.
Of course it has absolutely nothing to do with the shoes. Same old legs, same sad level of fitness and same rasping for breath…the shoes are merely part of the package and make very little difference. But it just didn’t seem that way at all. Somehow the moment they were laced up I wanted to run, felt like a runner and seemed to run like a champion. Amazing!
So, where am I going with this? Well, my altered state got me thinking about what ‘running shoes’ for the Executive or CEO would look like. What would be the thing that would inextricably ‘lift your game’, generate optimal performance and make you feel like anything is possible? And before you answer, drugs are not an option!
There will always be circumstances, resources and perhaps people that spark the kind of reaction that my magical shoes produced. Sometimes we know it in the moment and on other occasions we only recognize it after the fact. It doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that as a leader, you know who or what sparks such performance or elevates your awareness. I guess it has something to do with energy and we are often told that we should surround ourselves with those who contribute positively to our own energy and enthusiasm rather than those who rob us of the same.
I think leaders would do well to identify such sources of energy and then intentionally work to put themselves in the direct line of receiving such boosts. There are surely enough moments that rob you of energy and times that take away your enthusiasm and one accepts these as part and parcel of what it means to be a leader. But what ‘gets you going?’ What is it that makes you see things clearly? Who are those people that inspire, challenge and leave you wanting to do more, be better – who leave you feeling that anything is possible?
Somehow I don’t think it is just about external sources of motivation as important as these might be. It also has to do with unlocking internal sources of motivation and knowing what these are and how to access such a resource. As a leader, if you know what I mean by this, then maybe you are in a position to help others around you locate their own such source – help others find their own ‘running shoes’.
At some level perhaps this is exactly what leadership is about: helping others find their own running shoes and getting them on that treadmill! (or off it as the case might be!).
Go on then. Find those ‘magical’ shoes whatever they might be, start intentionally running in them and see what happens. You may just be surprised with the result!
I’m off to the gym…now where are those shoes?