Note: Dr. Taylor Williams serves as Director of Leader Engagement for Arrow Leadership and is author of this month’s To The Point.
It was mile fourteen of the 2013 Akron Marathon when I felt something in my shoulder blade pop. The pain was excruciating and continued as I ran for miles. Something was dreadfully wrong, and unfortunately for me, I was a long way from the finish line!
I stumbled into the nearest medical tent and the medic asked me a question that caught me off guard. He asked, “Are you hurt or are you injured? If you are hurt, you can still continue and run through the pain. If you are injured, you will need to stop because it will just get worse.”
The medic did some testing and determined that I very well could have an injury to my C6, C7 vertebrae. However, without proper equipment he would not be able to know for sure. I had a choice to make. Stop and take care of my hurt or press on and risk injury. I pressed on.
I learned many valuable principles that day. Choosing to continue to run prohibited me from running for the next six months. What I thought was just temporary pain turned out to be ruptured vertebrae. The next 12.2 miles would turn out to be the hardest (and dumbest) miles I have ever run.
The lessons from that day apply to leadership. Let me share three key applications:
1. Pay Attention to Warning Signs
The feeling of hurt in my body was a warning sign. If I had paid attention, my hurts could have been easily fixed. I would have avoided injury and months of painful recovery.
As leaders we need to pay careful attention to our internal warning signs. These are ‘hurts’ that can be addressed relatively easily. When you begin to notice on-going patterns that include a negative attitude, anger, envy, struggle with sleep, escapism, and/or feelings of entitlement, you need to pay careful attention. Pressing on with more determination may lead to injury. Injuries have greater consequence and demand a much more drastic remedy.
2. Outside Help Is Key
Just as the medic gave me valuable perspective based on his expertise, leaders sometimes need the perspective and expertise of others. Sometimes we need to seek outside help from godly mentors, coaches, counselors and doctors. Taking this step requires pride to be set aside. Being vulnerable requires humility and courage, but the input of community can bring light, truth, wisdom, hope and help that can lead to healing.
3. Hurts and Injuries Can Be Healed
It took time and intentional rehabilitation, but my vertebrae healed. I learned a lot through the process. I feel I’m wiser and stronger. The same principle can be true for leaders. God is our redeemer and healer. Leadership hurts and injuries can be healed. Time and intentionality are required, but you can become stronger in the long run.
Wherever you are in the race marked out for you, if you are sensing that something isn’t right let me encourage you to get help before your hurts become injuries. Your hurts in leadership can become gifts if you do what is needed for healing.
Do you see warning signs that need to be addressed? Are you injured? Who could you reach out to for perspective and help? What do you need to do today to move toward healing and restoration?
To The Point,
Dr. Taylor Williams
Director of Leader Engagement