Life is a race, and not everyone finishes well. The challenges of life get some people discouraged and to eventually give up on the race. A leader’s assignment can be likened to a long distance race which is expected to end well. While running the race, many distractions come to the leader in the form of challenges which could range from marital to financial and many others. I’ll refer to these challenges as “the issues of life.” A leader has a mandate to cause a change and to play a significant role in the life of his followers, despite the “issues of life.”
John Stephen Akhwari was competing in the Olympic marathon in Mexico City. About 19km into the race, he had a bad fall that left him severely wounded in his knee and shoulder. However, in spite of this fall and against the advice of medical doctors; Akhwari proceeded with the race. He limped across the finish line finishing last out of all 57 competitors who completed the race. Akhwari finished an hour after the other contestants finished the race.
By the time he got to the finish line, the sun had set and only a few thousand people were left in the stadium. When asked in an interview why he disregarded the advice of the doctors and went on to finish the race, he replied, “My country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race; they sent me to finish it.” The same goes for a leader, he has been called to deliver on the mandate committed to him. One of the most intriguing facts about this story is that of all 75 athletes who participated in the 1968 marathon, 18 of them pulled-out, one won gold, but only one was remembered – Akhwari, who finished against all odds.
The attribute of “never say never” is the quality of a relentless leader whose eyes are on the finish line. It is not enough to say “I’m facing marital challenges” or to say “I’m having financial problems.” When you identify the problem, you are expected to proffer a solution. For Akhwari, he proffered an immediate solution to his challenge; the solution was to go forward in the race against all odds. We can pick many lessons from the life of Akhwari, some of which include:
1. Be prepared
Akhwari was prepared for the race. Despite his preparation, he faced a major challenge – he fell during the race. When some leaders face such fall, they give up. Preparation makes you able to face the challenges ahead of you. It affords you the right tools, knowledge or anything required of you to overcome such challenges. There are different levels of preparation. You have the preparation of the spirit, body and the soul. All three must be prepared to face the “giant of challenges” that might want to stop the leader from finishing well. Imagine a confused leader commanding a huge number of followers. What it means is that he is going to lead them astray. An unprepared leader is a leader heading for a shipwreck.
2. Run with endurance
Some aspects of leadership sometimes appear as a burden, particularly, when the leader is responsible for the salvation of his followers. At such times it looks more like a burden. Such a journey could make the leader weak, tired and discouraged. He may feel like giving up. At such times, he is expected to run the race with endurance. Akhwari must have been discouraged having to know that in a race where he was first, his bad fall now made him to be the last. Despite that, he ran the race, enduring the pain on his knee; and today he is being remembered for finishing the race despite his predicament. It is only those that endure to the end that get crowned for finishing well. The prize is not for men that walk out of their marriage or for businessmen that give up on their dream. The trophy is also not for those who give up their calling. No matter what you go through, there is no excuse for giving up on what you have been called to do.
3. Learn from your mistakes
When we fail in a particular area, we are required to learn from that mistake so we can succeed when we are faced with similar challenges subsequently. Collin Powell opines that “Success is as a result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence.” As you learn from your mistake along your journey in leadership, you perfect your skill and become better to handle issues as they come.
4. Fix your eyes on the finish line
Keeping your eyes on the finish line can help you finish the race well. It is not all who run the race that get the prize, but those who run according to the rules and finish well. In other words the glory is in finishing, and finishing well and not just in starting. Once you have your eyes set on the glory you will endure all that is thrown your way. You will proffer solutions to the business and marital challenges. You will strategise and invest for financial opportunities. You will invest in your personal growth. And you will pilot the ship of your followers in the right direction. It is only when you finish well that you can be said to have succeeded. And like Richard M. Nixon said, “Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quitting does. A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.”