Leadership Atrophy and My Torn Calf
My body sent me a message yesterday: you are getting old. I am not as invincible as I once believed. I joined a group from my church to play a game of ultimate frisbee. The co-ed teams divided and my side kicked off. One, two, three, rip! I tore my calf muscle. I couldn't believe it, there was no way I could hurt myself. I have played sports my entire life, including college. Moreover, I have played rugby since I was sixteen and experienced many episodes of broken bones and stitches. On the rugby pitch, if your not bleeding then you are not trying. So what happened yesterday? I flexed my calf muscle and it decided to tear. I was not attempting an exceptional feat of athleticism; I was transitioning from a jog to a run. The truth is that I allowed myself to get out of shape and suffered an elite injury performing a novice task.
Leaders can get out of shape like athletes. Lack of practice, discipline and exercise make a leader unfit. When the time comes to flex an injury becomes much more likely. The real danger comes when leaders do not realize that they are out of practice. Their skills of moderating conflict, casting vision, or public speaking go unrehearsed and become a liability. Call it leadership atrophy: the loss of skills attributed to the lack of use.
What is something that you used to do well but haven't done in a long time? Are you still great at that thing? I bet that you are competent but are you great? Is there an area of your leadership that you need to take out for a few laps? Being intentional about the type of leadership skills you use is an important part of self development. Like the saying goes, he who sows little rips his calf play frisbee.