In a nutshell: Go the distance with these leadership tips from the world of running.

Perseverance, commitment and a willingness to improve: These are the traits that turn average people into enthusiastic runners. They’re also the characteristics of exceptional leaders. What else does running have in common with leadership? Put on your sneakers, do some light stretching, and read on.

Do Your Best

In “No Need for Speed,” running guru and bestselling author John Bingham writes: “You may never be the best, but you can become your best.” All leaders need to have realistic expectations and a good understanding of their capabilities. Leaders shouldn’t strive to be the next Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. They should strive to be the best they can be.

Invest in Success

The beauty of running is that no one needs special equipment to get started — really, a pair of sneakers, gym shorts and a T-shirt are all it takes. However, beginning runners learn that even the smallest investments can pay off: A specialized pair of running shoes can reduce the risk of injury and make the running experience more comfortable. Leaders should learn this lesson too: Investments in education, equipment and tools aren’t required, but can make a difference.

Go at your Own Pace

No runner is born with the ability to complete a marathon. Everyone starts out covering small distances, gaining experience with each step until they can finish a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon. Leaders follow a similar path to greatness — they become more proficient as they gain knowledge, observe other leaders and learn from their mistakes. Even accounting for genetics, what makes runners and leaders great is their willingness to learn and push themselves.

Spend Time Alone and Time with Groups

Runners are at their best when they balance their time between solo runs and group runs. By themselves, runners can work on their form and lose themselves in thought. As part of a group, such as a local running club, they can learn from their peers. Leaders should seek out a similar balance, finding some time to work by themselves and focus on personal goals, and seeking out the energy and interaction that comes from teamwork at other times.

Measure Progress

Many runners rely on measurement tools, such as running apps, to track their progress. This is important, as they need the right information is they want to improve speed and distance. Leaders too must rely on data, not gut feelings, to make sure their teams and organizations are moving forward.


Runners are encouraged to engage in activities besides running. Cross-training can help strengthen muscles, speed recovery and build endurance. Leaders should also attempt to work on complementary skill sets and take time to pursue hobbies. Psychology Today describes several benefits of hobbies — an important one is that they help people deal with stress.

Be Conscious of Pain

Runners should expect some discomfort and soreness, but need to stop running when the pain becomes intense. Ignoring pain can make problems worse and lead to long-term damage. Leaders also need to be aware of the signals their bodies are sending. Headaches, tension, elevated heart rates and similar symptoms might be a sign that leaders need to make changes.

Aim for Improvement

Runners and leaders should always want to do a little better every day. While it’s important about be realistic about what’s achievable, no one should accept the status quo.

Know When It’s Time to Take a Break

If runners want to truly make progress, they need to spend a fair amount of time notrunning. Muscles need time off to heal and strengthen themselves. Similarly, leaders shouldn’t attempt to be active all the time — they need to give themselves time to relax and recharge.

Celebrate Success

When runners or leaders cross the finish line, they should take a moment to reflect on the achievement. They should focus on the positive, as not every run will result in a personal record, or every project will be completed on time. What matters is that the runner and the leader had the tenacity to follow their effort through to completion.

What have you learned from running about leadership? Leave a comment below, or let us know at @BAIUpdate.

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