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Build Your Endurance for Leadership

Welcome to our blog! This blog is all about you, me, and the daily practice of leadership. No matter where you lead, whether it’s in a church, a non-profit, a business, or at home, leadership takes a lot of practice. Here, we’ll talk about practical ways to practice leadership and help you lead wherever you have influence.

I’m a distance runner. The concept of endurance interests me. Endurance athletes often seem superhuman, accomplishing feats of athleticism impossible for most of us. The Tour de France hosts a couple hundred cyclists, testing their strength and endurance over 21 stages and 2,000 miles. Ultramarathoners line up to run up and down the Sierra Mountains at Western States, a 100-mile race that takes place every June. No matter the sport, whether its swimming, climbing, an upcoming project, a new initiative, or a leadership challenge—leadership is an endurance sport.

And, leading through the pandemic tested every leader I know. How do some leaders manage to keep going, while others throw in the towel? Can you push past the desire to stop? The key is endurance.

Endurance, Alex Hutchinson writes in Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, is “the struggle to continue against a mounting desire to stop.” You’re coming up on a deadline, a complex situation arises within your organization, customers are unhappy about the product, your non-profit lost a critical donor—do you stop or push past the desire to stop? Endurance isn’t just a physiological feat; it’s connected to our neurons and synapses. Instead of stopping when the work gets hard, endurance athletes tend to push through it, but smartly, using rhythms of rest and work, to stay injury free.

So, how can you build endurance in your leadership? Here are a few strategies you can practice:

Train Smart, Train Hard – Just like world-class athletes, leadership is formed through the practice of leading. Practice. Be willing to make mistakes. Stretch. Study other leaders. Adopt the practices of mentors. Embrace every challenge as a learning opportunity. Rest and recovery are also key elements of building endurance. Build rest, reflection, and renewal into your life.

Push the Limit, Take One More Step – Push just beyond your limit or what you think is possible. Often, when you take just one more step you learn a powerful lesson—you are capable of more than you think. Let your obstacle teach you a lesson in overcoming, pushing through, and stretching your strength.

Practice the Belief Effect – Some studies show the “belief effect” can be a mental tool for building endurance. For example, some athletes love to sit in the ice bath after a hard workout, but studies disagree as to whether the ice bath has a measurable effect. So, why do these athletes sit in ice-cold water? Because they believe it’ll improve their performance. The mind is a powerful tool. Focus on what goes right. Spend time discussing with your team the positive outcomes. Positive self-talk and team-talk makes a huge difference. Believe! Test your limits, and go one step more.

Joshua Clough
Location Pastor, Church of the Resurrection Overland Park