Leadership Skills: Hanging In

Just hanging in there is really a skill for every leader to master


I am committed to exercising at least 5 days per week, with three of those exercise sessions being a run – short or long. My training plan specifies a long run on Saturday mornings. Each Saturday, I commit to the longest distance I’ve been so far, with a plan to increase the distance by around 10% per month. From past experience, I know that this plan works. I have completed over one hundred 5K, 10K, and longer races – including two half-marathons and two Peachtree Road Race events on July 4th. I know the routine.

Well, if you don’t stay in shape, then you must work back up to it. Therefore, I am working up to running another half-marathon in January at Disney. It’s a goal. It’s a lifestyle change (getting out of bed). It’s a commitment. I know I can accomplish this goal. It doesn’t make the accomplishment any easier, just because I have done it before. It still takes a major effort.

As I was running on Saturday, I was very aware that my body was stronger and that I had built up more capacity for running a distance. I simply have developed greater capacity. I had to remind myself of this to keep going, especially on the hills.

As leaders with specific goals, we must train ourselves for success. A large part of that training is mental training. Mental discipline is the key to physical success. The old saying, “What you think – you are,” is especially true in this case.

There are many opportunities to quit, and usually one opportunity to succeed. I wanted to quit on the long hills. During the first mile of running, I was struggling (as always) for breath control, so I wanted to stop. The last mile is an added piece to the activity, and not yet a part of my routine – I could have stopped short of my goal and told myself, “Good enough.” I didn’t stop. I was committed to my daily goal.

I’m not done yet. The long-term objective is still the largest part of the process. I remain committed to that objective. I know that success provides a pay-off that’s obvious, and I know that there are many other benefits that are not so obvious.

Our leadership duty and delight is to remain faithful to the vision and to run the race before us. There are many opportunities to give up each day. There are many opportunities to compromise our vision. There are many opportunities for our negative thoughts to influence our positive momentum.

Success as a leader is similar to success as a runner. Keep these thoughts in mind as factors influencing success:

  • Show Up: Just showing up is a huge factor in being successful. I must get out of bed and run, in order to reach my running goals. Do not avoid the tough situations. Do not put off what needs to be done today. Show up and engage in meaningful activity focused on outcomes.
  • Believe In Yourself: In my longer run last week, there were several times that I asked myself, “Why am I not at home in bed?” I also was thinking, “I can’t reach the top of this hill without stopping.” When I reset my thoughts to positive affirmations, the game changed. I welcomed the hill as building strength and equipping me as a better runner. We cannot hold a negative and a positive thought in our minds at the same time. Displace the negative thought with a positive thought. It makes a remarkable difference!
  • Keep Going: In the past, I have paused in the training or the race, thinking that it would help. Sometimes it does. I get a second wind, so to speak, and get a fresh commitment to completion. Mostly, I find that stopping makes it more difficult to run again. Newton’s law about objects at rest tending to remain at rest, etc., brings wisdom to the decision to keep going. Stay active as a leader in activities to reach your goal. Keep the momentum. Once you stop, it’s much more difficult of get going again.
  • Set Small Milestones Along the Way: I visualized reaching certain places on the trail. Once I got to that place, I visualized the next place. Set monthly, weekly, and daily benchmarks or milestones to measure your success, and smaller, quantifiable steps.
  • Visualize Success: Know what the end result looks and feels like. Finishing a 13.1 mile half-marathon is quite a satisfying accomplishment. I remember how success feels. That is a powerful encouragement to keep going. Create powerful goals that are energizing and engaging. Visualize the end result and let that visual image be your inspiration and your guide.

I remember the book from my childhood about the Little Engine that Could. The little engine kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can.” Many of my most powerful goals were successful just because I had a clear vision of the end result and believed in success. Many times, there was no logical reason that my goal should be successful. My belief in success was the most powerful element for my success.

What is your biggest challenge in creating success?


Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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