Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That theme hit a resounding echo with the latest accomplishment of Eliud Kipchoge. In the INEOS Challenge, he was able to run a marathon in under 2 hours, a feat that has never been accomplished by anyone before.


He did not accomplish this amazing triumph by himself. Teams of world renown athletes trotted alongside him as he ran the 9.6 KM course a little over four times. They were just as crucial to his success as his diet, training, and shoes.

My family and I sat in awe watching this superior athlete surpass his previous world record. But what was even more interesting was watching the teams of athletes that surrounded him run with him, creating what looked like a running bubble that encapsulated Kipchoge. Without them, many think he would not have been able to do it.

Reflecting on this feat made me think of the similarities between this athletic record of achievement and successful leaders in the business and technology worlds. There are subtle (and sometimes exaggerated) nuances that set them apart from others. Here are three clear lessons I noted from the INEOS Challenge.

1. Set the Pace

One of the primary responsibilities of Kipchoge’s team of runners was to ensure that he kept a pace of less than 4.5 minutes per mile in order to ensure that he would complete the marathon in under 2 hours. Because this was their main function, the group was labeled “pacesetters.” So how is this relevant to technology? The pacesetters were not ordinary, run of the mill (pun intended) athletes.  Each had earned medals and accolades at various international meets as well as the Olympics. This group of elite runners had to set and keep the pace for Kipchoge in order for him to beat the INEOS Challenge.

Technology constantly evolves and changes. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with everything new. If you are not paying attention to the times, they will change and leave you in the past. The question to ask yourself is who are your pacesetters? Who are the individuals who keep their ear to ground, keeping their skills fresh and themselves knowledgeable about new technologies?

Let’s look at the example of leaders of datacenters and NOCs. They should have high potential individuals around them to keep them abreast of the latest technologies and trends like AI and data analytics. Having a grasp of these technologies and how they will disrupt current practices is essential for any leader to stay relevant so their organization can remain competitive. If you don’t have any pacesetters around you, you need to find some quickly.

2. Get in Formation

The pacesetters ran in a specific formation in order to block wind from Kipchoge. Wind resistance can reduce a runner’s speed by a few seconds. In a marathon, those seconds can add up to minutes. Considering that Kipchoge beat the 2-hour threshold by one minute, no seconds could be wasted. Additionally, each runner had a specific role. They choreographed substitutions and communicated to each other using hand signals, their own runner’s language. They worked as a team to help Kipchoge succeed.

Leader’s not only need to ensure they have a strong team around them but they also need to make sure each person has a role and responsibility to the team. Take for example the various types of roles required to upgrade a system. A technical SME may be the individuals who has hands on the keyboard, but there are other team members who are just as critical to the success of the upgrade. You may have a release manager who coordinates the activities for the upgrade, tier 1 support communicating to the customers about the maintenance and monitoring the system, and test engineers who verify the system once the upgrade is complete. Everyone works together in full harmony to obtain the goal. No one job or role is too small. In fact, each is instrumental. A leader orchestrates the abilities and talents of team members so they can work in tandem to optimize the team’s performance.

A leader orchestrates the abilities and talents of team members so they can work in tandem to optimize the team’s performance.
Tweet: A leader orchestrates the abilities and talents of team members so they can work in tandem to optimize the team’s performance. @ThinkHDI #leadership #servicedesk

3. Remove Distractions to Focus on the Goal

During the televised marathon expedition, a news reporter interviewed one of the pacesetters that just finished running. The reporter asked him, what was the purpose of him running with Kipchoge. The pacesetter said he was there to be a guide for him. Running a marathon is about mental strength. He wanted to remove distractions from Kipchoge so he could focus all his mental strength on meeting the challenge.

Leader’s need to have a team around them that can remove the distractions away from them. Distractions can take the form of tasks, meetings, and administrative duties. These things can be delegated to other team members. For one, it gives the team members an opportunity to grow. But it also removes tasks which in turn frees up time so a leader can focus on larger problems. The more time leaders can spend focused on tougher challenges at hand, the higher the probability they and their team will be successful.

Make Strides in Leadership

If you happened to catch the event or read about, what were your thoughts? Do you see any resemblance between the INEOS Challenge and IT leadership? Connect with me on LinkedIn, and keep the conversation going.

Dr. Alma Miller is an enthusiastic entrepreneur, speaker, and educator with more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Catholic University, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University, a Masters in Technical Management from Johns Hopkins University, and a Doctorate in Engineering from George Washington University. Dr. Miller considers herself a relationship counselor between development and IT operations teams. Her consulting company, AC Miller Consulting , provides services to government and commercial clients across multiple industries. Dr. Miller speaks at industry conferences and events and teaches graduate courses for Johns Hopkins and University of California Irvine. Connect with her on LinkedIn to continue the conversation.

Tag(s): supportworld, workforce enablement, workforce enablement, leadership


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