Back in 1980, The Boston Marathon was won by an unknown athlete – Rosie Ruiz, the first female to cross the finish line. She received the winners wreath and the photo op’s. Someone noticed her legs – loose flesh, cellulite. Yikes. The questions started coming fast and furious. Even back in the day, before online cameras ruled, there was a sense when something was too good to be true. Eventually the truth came out: she had snuck into the race during the last mile. She was a fraud.
Here’s the funny part, at least to me, she never admitted her fraud. Nope, she did not. She promised to validate her “win” by running another marathon and unleashing a can of whoop ass on her competition. Somehow she never got around to running. Rosie wanted credit for the win, she just wanted to take a short cut and saw nothing wrong with it. She ran, mind you, just not the full course. She ran the most important mile, the one in front of the grandstands, the one where winners are celebrated. She skipped the full course.
We see leaders like Rosie all day. They love to show up at the quarterly events, celebrations, final presentations, big charity events, and especially the finish lines. These posers love to get their picture taken cutting the ribbon or holding onto their golden shovel. They love a good cigar with fellow Titans where they compare notes on the latest theories for getting the most from their team while giving as little as possible. These posers are not far from the sociopath Rosie. They don’t think they’re taking shortcuts. They don’t see anything wrong with their behavior. They are smart, normal, and intelligent – as Rosie was. They come to BTL looking for another edge, another way ’round, if you will. Here’s what they get. We ask them why they’re here. Oftentimes, the answer revolves around this central thought – they want a better team. The want a team willing to “run through the walls for them.” Good, we respond with a small “and.”
Run with them. Run from the starting line. Run beside them. Grab them water at each station and make sure nobody is left behind. Run back to encourage the slower ones, sprint up to the front to push the strong. Cheer on all the support staff who’ve come out to serve your team of runners. Run up and down heartbreak hill and inspire your team through your pain and suffering. Don’t stop until your last teammate has made it to the last mile marker. Run beside them for their last glorious mile. Walk when they walk and keep talking to them as the few remaining spectators hardly notice you still working your asses off on course. Arrive at the finish line long after the celebrity celebrations have ceased. Arrive spent and still smiling. Here’s what you’ll notice. Your teammates will still be there. You will find yourself surrounded by real people you’ve poured yourself into. Smiles everywhere. Smiles from teammates who just witnessed real leadership in motion. They didn’t hear or remember anything you said that day. They were seared as you modeled the way, embraced pain and suffering, and embodied truth in love. Good.
Want a team willing to run through the walls for you? Run with them. Run. Enough said…