Looking to Level Up your Leadership? Do an IRONMAN.

Looking to Level Up your Leadership? Do an IRONMAN.

I completed my first full IRONMAN (140.6 miles) this past November (2023) in Panama City Beach, Florida.  In the months since, I have taken some time to reflect on the many lessons learned - personal, spiritual, and professional. IRONMAN Florida was transformational for me.  In my career I have led teams from three to fifty-three.  I don’t spend much time looking in the rearview mirror, but I do believe I could’ve been more effective in those past roles had I learned what I did training for and completing my first IRONMAN.  In this article, I am proposing that if you want to improve as a leader, the IRONMAN can be transformational for you as well.  Here are four reasons, I recommend you consider doing an IRONMAN.

  1. Exceptional leaders exude grit. Granted, the look of this varies from organization to organization, but make no mistake - it is there and it is obvious to their teams. And their teams are resilient and confident through difficult times because they see this in their leaders. When you complete arguably the hardest single day endurance race in the history of the world, you will not just add grit to your brand. You will do it with an exclamation point. 
  2. Exceptional leaders are not just respected. They are admired. They have made themselves into someone their people want to follow. Their authority and influence is earned - often through doing epic stuff or demonstrating excellence. The IRONMAN is an iconic symbol of excellence. For most people, completing 140.6 miles of swimming, biking, and running in a single day isn’t just epic - it seems impossible. The discipline and dedication required to prepare for such a challenge, especially when integrated with a demanding career and family life, is a superhuman effort.  And this is exactly why training for and completing an IRONMAN can elevate you as a leader. 
  3. Exceptional leaders possess mental clarity. To find mental clarity, you need to unplug. Specifically, you need to reduce your screen time and set some boundaries on your availability. But making this happen consistently is extremely difficult, because in 2024 we are always connected. When you sign up for an IRONMAN, you commit yourself to an extensive, progressive, and time consuming training process. Your training plan will have structure. And it will feature several times per week that you can leave your phone behind.  For that hour you are in the pool, you get a break from your phone.  For that 4 hour ride on Saturday morning, you can ignore your email. That 2 hour long run on Sunday will become a time for meditation or perhaps a conversation with a training partner. Your training will force you to unplug. And you will find that as you are pushing your body past its limits, your mind will clear and you will be recharged. 
  4. Exceptional leaders are comfortable in their own skin. When training for an IRONMAN you have the opportunity to choose to train every day.  You choose to put yourself into discomfort and push yourself physically. Consistently keeping this commitment will change your body from the inside out. This is powerful. Unless you are already in peak physical condition, this will manifest itself outwardly as well.  So in this process, you will feel better, look better, and perform better. This is the formula for real confidence. But I should warn you, you will be tired a lot and probably will start going to bed at 8:30. Regardless, this process produces people comfortable in their own skin. 

Is completing an IRONMAN prerequisite to becoming an exceptional leader? Of course not. But it is a proven way to build credibility towards that goal. And when you become an IRONMAN, you can...

"brag for the rest of your life"

                            - John Collins, IRONMAN co-founder (1978 pre-race speech)

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