Executive Coaching Connections, LLC

"I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible."

-John Hanc, running writer



The marathon remains a popular analogy in business, and while relatively few of us have ever run a marathon (just .5 percent of the U.S. population, according to Runner’s World), many of us will be inspired to support runners who will. 

This Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon is expected to draw 1.7 million spectators to support over 40,000 anticipated finishers, second only in numbers to the New York City Marathon. 

I recently had the privilege of watching my niece finish her first marathon (shout out to Brittney Lutsch). Standing with the families and friends of other runners at the finish line, the mix of excitement and pride was palpable. 

Here are 5 leadership lessons I took away as a marathon spectator:

  1. We all finish stronger with support. An important way we overcome challenges is through our support systems. While some runners at the race didn’t appear to have their own “cheering sections,” many did, with some supporters running the home stretch with their runners. As you think about supporting team members in your organization, is your cheering section loud enough and visible enough?

  2. There’s power in facing a challenge. While we often prefer smooth sailing, challenges develop our skills and abilities more effectively. As John Hanc’s quote above suggests, the bigger payoff in accomplishing something great is the state of mind that comes with it. When we have a belief that anything is possible, we’re more likely to try something hard next time – even in the face of obstacles and adversity. As you reflect on your goals and those of your team, have you built enough stretch into them? 

  3. You never know whom you might inspire. Over the last few weeks, I’ve continued to think about the runners at the race I observed. While I only knew one runner, I felt inspired by each one’s tenacity and perseverance. You never know how or when your actions might inspire someone else. Interacting with so many others, both virtually and in person every day, your impact may be greater than you even realize. How might your actions today inspire greatness in others? 

  4. Facilitating great achievements sometimes takes a village. One of the things I noticed at the race was the number of volunteers – staffing stations and booths, handing out medals, water, and more. There was a lot of work happening behind the scenes. Enabling others to accomplish great things is an important part of leadership – and frequently means providing support. As you think about the people you lead everyday, do you have the right support systems in place to bring out greatness in each of them?

  5. Recognition matters. The atmosphere at the local finish line was festive. As party favorites played loudly, each runner’s name was announced as they crossed the finish line, and each received a medal. When an accomplishment is great, recognition takes on special meaning, whether someone just finishes the race or achieves a new personal best. How are you recognizing great accomplishments in your organization? Could you be giving out more medals?

Helping others achieve greatness is something we all do as leaders. 

Ready to join the cheering section this Sunday? 

Wave 1 of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon will start at 7:30 a.m. CST this Sunday, October 11, with NBC 5 Chicago streaming live coverage from 7 to 11 a.m. Spectator access to Grant Park begins at 9 a.m.


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