Winning the Race: 4 Leadership Lessons From 3 Underdogs

3 min read
Sep 1, 2022 9:25:27 AM

Everyone loves an underdog right?

To set the stage before you continue this article, you’re going to want to do yourself a favor and listen to these 3 underdog stories. that our Founder, Chris Heaslip shared in a recent All Staff Meeting.

Did you listen? Good. If not, you’re missing out, but here’s the gist:

  1. Cliff Young - A  56 year old farmer joined the Melbourne Marathon (a 42 km run) with no training, no gear, and no coaching. He beat the all-time record.
  2. The Wright Brothers - With no connections, money, or training, the Wright brothers successfully launched the first manned airplane flight, beating out others with the resources to succeed in this monumental endeavor.
  3. 20 mile march - In a race to the south pole, one team’s strategy was to go fast and hard only when conditions were good, the other’s strategy was to go 15 miles a day, regardless of the conditions. Who do you think won the race?

I’m telling you, the audio versions of these stories are far more compelling…but I digress.

So what is it that allows the underdog in each of those stories to rise up and win the race? Heart? Luck? Courage? Here are the 4 leadership lessons we can take away from those 3 underdog stories.

1. Losers have goals, winners have systems

A goal is great, but what’s more important than goals are the small, intentional steps you take to achieve that goal. Instead of just setting a goal to lose 30 pounds in a year, focus on the input it takes to achieve that outcome. Things like setting a meal plan or being active for 30 minutes a day are the keys to your success, not the goal itself.

Setting a system allows you to wake up with your plan for the day already in mind, rather than having to spend energy determining how you’re going to reach this enormous goal. 

Think: Amundsen’s approach to the 20 mile race.

Let’s apply this to our jobs. We may have a goal of acquiring 30 new customers a month. But how we achieve that goal might be broken down into things like: 1 new customer a day, or even more foundational, making 20 calls a day to result in 1 new customer. 

Know your goal. Decide on your system. Commit to your system daily. The results will come.

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2. Experts don’t win races

In each of these stories, there were experts facing underdogs with no experience, and each time, who won? That’s right. Those who came with passion and an understanding of the basics.

It’s so easy to get caught up in credentials. What college did you go to? What advanced degrees do you have? But what really matters at the end of the day is showing up and committing to your plan for winning the day, not the entire goal all at once.

All success is success of the basics. All failure is failure of the basics.

3. Keep the main thing the main thing  

What is your “why?” What passion drives you to work every day? 

Our current workforce is hyperfocused on team culture, and that’s a great thing. But it isn’t the main thing. Here at Leadr, we have a lot of fun - Waffle Wednesday, free lunch at our quarterly meetings, and the list goes on. But if that’s what we’re focused on more than our mission, we’re not going to meet our goals at the end of the day. 

These fun staff treats are meant to celebrate the hard work that happens every day, but if these perks drive us to think more of ourselves and less of our passion for our mission and our customers, we’re losing.

We have to be diligent and intentional about showing up every day with our “why” in mind, just like each of these underdogs.

4. It’s not if you get knocked down, it’s if you get back up

There are going to be days that knock you off course. This may shock you, but we can’t control all of our circumstances. There’s not one organization in history that hasn’t had a bad quarter. 

What separates winners isn’t that they win every day. It’s that when they do face challenges (and we all do), they keep going.

So whether your business is thriving or struggling today, whether you have credentials in your field or not, you can win the race. What lesson do you need to apply to your work today in order to rise up?

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