I just heard on the news an amazing lesson on leadership, that you can apply to your life, your software project, and even to your product that you may be creating.
The Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke the record that many had considered impossible: run a marathon (42 km) in less than 2 hours.
What can Kipchoge’s record-breaking teach us about leadership?
This was not an ordinary run, and it is not even an official record. The whole thing was planned to give Kipchoge the higher speed possible.
The news program I watched this on, Jornal Hoje, mentioned 5 things that made this possible:
- 5- Support Team – 40 professional athletes (including some that won Olympic medals) run with Kipchoge, taking turns to protect him from the wind.
- 4- Best Path – Kipchoge run an exact path, traced by a laser in front of him, so he could follow the best path to run the 42 km.
- 3- Environment – the run was done in a specific place in Vienna, flat, protected from the wind, in a day with the exact weather and temperature.
- 2- On-demand resources – Kipchoge received hydration at specific moments during the run, handed to him by cyclists, so he didn’t have to stray from the path.
- 1- Tools – Kipchoge used experimental tennis shoes, with a 3 tiered sole, that was created to give maximum speed to runners.
Again: the whole thing was engineered to give Kipchoge the maximum results.
He did the run, but someone was planning so he could extract every last second from his efforts.
What are the skills of a Leader?
YOU can help YOUR TEAM (project, company, colleagues…) to extract their best with the same ideas!
(And, if you want, you can even apply this to a product, and help your customers!)
- 5- Support team – in your network, look for friends and partners that can help your team. Build a support community in your company. Promote sharing inside the team. Bring in the best support they need.
- 4- Best Path – this is where you can shine! Your experience, the problems you faced, the expertise you have can help your team to follow a winning path. Share with them. Show a clear and efficient path for success.
- 3- Environment – build an environment that promotes results, and that gets your team focused on the task. Help your team build the correct environment. Remove the obstacles before your team has to deal with them, so they have a free path ahead.
- 2- On-demand resources – Make sure your team has the resources needed. But, get the exact information on the right time your team needs. Don’t overwhelm people with loads of stuff at the wrong time.
- 1- Tools – provide all the tools your team needs to do the work and reach their goals. Build specific tools for your team or for the project, so they can reach their full potential.
When we hear how much effort was put to prepare the race, it is easy to think: “so you are saying that Kipchoge got it easy?”
This is a common mistake a leader makes, the idea that the team has to handle everything, it is their problem, we don’t need to make it easy.
But it is NOT easy!
Kipchoge had to run each kilometer in less 2 min 50s, and keep this breathtaking pace for the 42 km of the challenge. It is unbelievably hard (impossible many said!). He even failed the last time he tried.
The job of a software developer, even more of a team, is not easy.
But if they lack the support they need,
if they follow unclear goals and paths,
get bogged down by company-created obstacles,
if they are dumped with useless resources or don’t have any,
if they are working with outdated or inefficient tools…
You are not making just their lives hard. You are making it impossible for them to succeed. And if they don’t succeed, the project, the company fails too.
As a leader…
- You can help your team be the best runner in the world, even if you yourself are not.
- It is the leader’s work to think about what your team needs to do their BEST job!
- You can’t run for your team. Nor train for them. But you CAN and SHOULD eliminate the obstacles by thinking ahead.
- Help your team do their best work. Don’t do a half-baked job. Give everything you’ve got.
If you practice the skills needed to get your team working at full speed, they will do the impossible.
What other things you think you can help your team with so they succeed? Leave a comment below, and let’s improve our leadership skills together!