Take a Leadership Cue From Nature: Muscle Mechanics

by | Feb 15, 2019 | Blog Series, Development, Failure, Leadership, Self-awareness, Self-Care

This is the second installment in an eight-week series called Take a Leadership Cue From Nature, using naturally occurring phenomena from the world around to illustrate how—if we’re not careful—we can let circumstances undermine our leadership effectiveness.
Maybe that thing we’re sensing may not be so strange after all…

Our muscles are amazing. They, quite literally, move us; they are our mechanism of performance for all that we do in life.

Muscles must be managed:

  • They can get bigger and stronger with exercise; in fact, muscles only grow when they’re challenged and stressed.
  • If they’re not used, they atrophy.
  • If they’re overused they fatigue and get sore.
  • Muscles need other muscles around them to work, or they’ll get damaged.
  • Most muscles, to work effectively, must have opposing muscles that work on the same part of the body but do so differently.
  • Muscles aren’t all the same; some are for fine motor movement while others are more powerful.
  • Muscles require specific nutrition or they won’t work right.

Improved physical, athletic performance only comes through properly exercising that which moves you: your muscles. And what’s true for muscles is equally true for people as a whole—ourselves and those we lead.

And Your Point Is…?

Improved performance doesn’t occur on demand, it comes as a result of exercising that which produces our performance.

So What?

I have some self-care and performance maxims that I frequently use. One is a Navy SEAL proverb: “In a crisis, you don’t rise to the occasion. You sink to the level of your training.” Another is, “If you want to get better, you can’t keep doing what you’re already good at.”

Improved performance doesn’t occur on demand, it comes as a result of exercising that which produces our performance.

Staying with the muscle analogy, we perform better when we’re prepared in advance to handle challenges or situations. That requires stretching ourselves beyond what we currently know and practice before we encounter them. It means trying different things, failing, learning why failure happened then trying again until we master it.

Then doing it all over again.

This requires both testing and resting, exertion and reflection. It requires the “nutrition” of new learning. It also (frequently) happens best through interaction with others—and most effectively with people who aren’t just like us, so we get more perspective.

They all must work together.

Higher performance comes from trying different things, failing, learning why failure happened then trying again until we master it.

The Big Picture

How we “exercise” ourselves and those we lead will impact both our current level of performance as well as determine future levels of performance. As leaders, we also have the opportunity to instill the value and practice of self-care “exercise” as we model it for the emerging leaders we’re developing.

As leaders, we also have the opportunity to instill the value and practice of self-care “exercise” as we model it for the emerging leaders we’re developing.

Your Next Step

What does your leadership exercise program look like?

Want more leadership insights?
Check out: 

Taking the Lead - What Riding a Bike Can Teach You About Leadership

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