Why Leaders Shouldn’t Go the Extra Mile

finish-lineMy head was in a fog.I could barely move.All I wanted to do was sleep.This wasn’t my usual week.I was in the throes of a particularly brutish cold.And still- I had stuff to get done.All the momentum on my projects ground to a halt.I didn’t feel like doing anything.In fact, for two days, I couldn't even think about thinking about anything.Then I remembered: The project team.Ugh.Just the week before, I’d led a ten person team to the successful end of an 18 month project.We were the search committee charged to find and hire a new executive director of a non-profit organization. I was the chair of the committee.My “ugh” was because I’d meant to write thank you notes to everyone on the team. I'd wanted to create a great experience of closure for everyone.But right now, at this moment, making the effort to write notes was the last thing I wanted to do.Little pesky thoughts went through my head:

  • I don’t really have to do this.
  • They know I appreciate them.
  • No one is writing me a thank you note.
  • I don’t get paid to do this.
  • I’ve got other things to do.

I sat with these little gremlins for a while. At first, they had a pretty compelling argument.I honestly didn’t feel like doing any of this.Then I remembered something a mentor told me a long time ago:Leadership isn’t how you feel, it’s how you make others feel.

Don’t Go The Extra Mile

I thought back on some of the best leaders I’d known and worked with.  From my point of view, they never seemed to make an “extra” effort.They didn’t go the extra mile. They went the perfect distance.They just did what need to be done.The “extra” was part of who they were. Be excellent was part of their DNA. It's who they were.Then, I thought back to the search team. Many members had worked long and hard for a long time to achieve success. What final message did I want to leave them with?Was I going to get lethargy have the last word?No.I set my timer, and got writing.25 minutes.That’s all it took to write out the nine cards.In a surprise move, instead of draining me, once I got started, I found the process to be energizing.Related to this subject of "the extra mile", one of my friends became a first time father last month at the age of 48. He recently posted that:My life has been reduced to sleep, eat & poop.Welcome to parenting. Rule #1: It’s not about you. It’s about them.Your baby doesn’t care how you feel. He’s got a dirty diaper that needs changing.Sometimes, leadership is not so different. How you feel isn't the most important thing.What do you do to sustain yourself when your “gremlins” tell you to stop short and give up? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.