“Beware the Chair!”

In ultra-running there is a saying, “Beware the chair.” Every few miles in an ultra running event there is an Aid Station. Crewed by friendly volunteers, Aid Stations are a welcome sight as you are ticking off miles and working your way to your finish. When you’re trying to run 50K, 50 miles, or 100 miles, sitting down at an Aid Station can be dangerous. You might not want to or be able to get back up. You get comfortable and sit too long and you’re jeopardizing your ability to start back on your way or seriously impacting your ability to achieve your goal of not being DFL (Ask a runner what DFL means.). Hence the saying, “Beware the chair.”

To those who aspire to “ultra leadership” I offer the same warning, “Beware the chair.” When it comes to our work as leaders, “Beware the Chair” has two meanings. First, beware the temptation to use your title or position in order to get things done. Positional power has a shelf life, and it is very short. The more you rely on your position, the more you become the “boss” instead of being a leader. Every time you resort to using your position and title to get things done, you chip away at the other person’s motivation to engage. Ultra leadership gets people to willingly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly say “yes” to our requests to engage, follow, and contribute to our important work.

Second, beware the tendency to become settled. We need to see our development as leaders as a lifelong journey and a daily practice. When we stop learning, we stop leading. When we become settled we shift from learner to knower and we cease to be curious about what is happening inside us and around us. When that happens we tend to accept the false limits we construct or encounter. Ultra leadership demonstrates the will to continuously go to the edge and push farther.

As we end 2014 it is a great time to check in with ourselves to see if we’ve become reliant on our chairs. I would suggest you do some reflection and get some feedback on whether you’ve become too comfortable in your chair. If you’re being honest with yourself, you already know the answer to that question. Get up, it’s almost 2015 and we’ve got miles to go yet.

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