3 Leadership Takeaways From A Relay Team

Last year I was attending a high school track meet when our school’s 4 x 400-meter-relay team faced a rival team with a runner known as one of the fastest boys in the state.
Our four-man-team actually held the lead until the final leg when the well-known opponent began to burn up the track catching our leader.

Everyone expected him to do what he always did: blow right past him to win.

When he caught the young man from our team, however, suddenly the two became locked in stride.

For the next quarter of the track, they were synchronized in a beautiful, stunning pace of exact motion, posture, and speed.

No one had ever held pace with him before–not for this long. It was like watching a scene from a movie.

But then, slowly, the well-known rival began inching ahead, and he finally slipped away, quickly barreling into the final stretch to win by a healthy lead.

Our boys had lost, but it didn’t feel like it.

Even as the lookers-on cheered for the victory, the fans from our team were yelling just as loudly for our relay team and our young man who gave the best effort anyone could have imagined.

Someone had run neck-in-neck with the champion, and that feat alone was something to celebrate.

Lesson From A Race
Whenever I talk to students, I often remind them that school, or life for that matter, is like a race. Sometimes we win and sometimes we fail. But failure doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t grown, learned, or improved through the struggle.

As you think the goals for your school year, here are three take-aways to consider:

1. When everyone plays their part, teams perform best.
For relay teams, every member has a pivotal role to play in a race. At school, the same is true.

No one else can be you. That’s why you were chosen as the person to fulfill the unique role you have on your school team.

Working together is not always easy, but everyone performs better when each person leans into his or her role and executes those responsibilities well.

2. It takes courage to run your best.
I like to call this quality “having heart”.

Sometimes it is easy to show up and go through the motions. But to make a difference and reach goals, you must have focus, purpose, and intention.

Sometimes this means making the hard choices. It also requires remaining steady even when facing struggle, discomfort to finish the task.

We all like quick-fixes, but nothing produces results like plain, hard work.

3. Redefine your failures as growth opportunities.
As much as we like to talk about winning, we often overlook the benefits of the race itself.

Just like an athlete trains, a student must push himself to grow academically. And school leaders must be willing to accept that part of growing in leadership means pushing limits and sometimes failing at some of the attempts.

An old college professor once told me, “Disequilibrium is the beginning of education.” In other words, it is the struggle with understanding a truth or the difficult process of problem solving that leads to deeper learning and application.

Even though our boys finished second in their race, they had definitely grown in the process. They had set a new team best-record for our school, and they had created a challenge for an opposing runner who usually swept past other opponents.

As you face the next season of your school year, keep in mind how important it is to do your part well while relying on those around you, running the race with courage and heart, and embracing the struggles that lead to learning.

Now It’s Your Turn
What are some new goals you are excited about reaching this year with your school or organization?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker