I went for a walk the other day, keen to stretch my legs and enjoy the wide-open spaces of Footscray Gardens at the Maribyrnong River. It’s been a couple of weeks of the COVID-19 isolation period, so I’m increasingly valuing the wonderful opportunities I have to exercise … perhaps more now than I ever have before.
It was busy at the river. It seemed lots of people had the same idea as me. Get outside. Go for a walk. Enjoy a jog. Walk your dogs and give your kids a run in the fresh air. This is normally a lovely shared experience. That sense of community is blissful. Enjoying the same experiences at the same time with people you don’t know often inspires a sense of camaraderie in me as I do life alongside my neighbours.
On This Day It Felt Threatening
But when I am dedicated to remaining at least 1.5m away from my peers, that river walk quickly started feeling like I was walking through a field of landmines. It’s not that I have a personal problem with any of the people at the river. I literally don’t know them. It’s that unless they’ve been tested, no-one can guarantee that their lack of symptoms means lack of the dreaded virus. We’re in a privileged spot in the world. Our island country has witnessed what has happened in other places, and we have the power to change outcomes here at home if we would just follow the rules and maintain a safe physical distance.
To be honest, I’m a fit and healthy middle-aged woman. I’m not too concerned about catching the virus and suffering a fatal end myself. But I am very concerned that I could catch it then inadvertently pass it on to others. It’s this concern that prompted my irritation when my fellow river walkers took up the entire path, pausing in the middle of the walkway to tend to their kids or their pets, with little consideration of maintaining that social distance that we all need to stay safe.
I really was annoyed. “How hard is it for that family to step to the side of the path to make way for others if they need to stop?” I thought to myself. To have to walk around those people who didn’t give me a second thought was frustrating. It felt rude and inconsiderate. Which really, when I am honest with myself, made me feel overlooked and unimportant.
Taking An Honest Look In The Mirror
There’s something very powerful that happens when you admit your true motives to yourself. It is humbling, yes. But it’s also hugely liberating and wonderfully empowering. Listening to my own thoughts inside my head made me realise that something as trivial as an awkward footpath moment with a stranger had pressed an ugly button inside me. More than that, I had chosen to give away my power in that moment. Crazy!
This realisation did not happen on the walk, but when I got home. There I am, thinking about those annoying footpath moments as I’m making dinner and taking my makeup off, and it hit me! I could have responded differently. I could have acted like a leader!
“Your rewards in life will be in direct proportion to the value of your service to others.” Brian Tracy
The Makeover Scene
The next time I was out was for my run a few days later. Same river. Same crowded paths. Save physical distancing requirements.
But different attitude.
On this run, I took pride in adopting the mindset of a leader. Today I wanted to share some of the ways I shifted. these are the lessons I continue to learn as a business leader and a difference-maker in my community. I hope they’re encouraging for you at this time:
A leader raises others up
It’s a stark contrast in this competitive world where everyone is looking for that “edge” to give them an advantage. But when you lead by putting others first, they are raised along with you. When you make it a priority to champion the success of others, you build a life of success for all. It is so wonderfully rewarding to celebrate victories you helped create.
A leader takes pride in going the extra mile
This is the business owner working up late to prepare for their team to work the next day. It’s the parent rising early to set their families up with the things they need for the day ahead. It’s the scientists working night and day to find a cure to a virus that has treated the world. Breakthroughs come when leaders dedicate to achieving them with everything they’ve got.
A leader sets the pace with integrity
The power of authenticity, morality and honesty cannot be underestimated. When your personal code is strong it inspires trust, rapport and connection. And from this place lives can be touched, differences can be made, and worlds can be changed. This is what people need from their leaders.
A leader invests in self-reflection
The leader knows this one simple fact: who they are in private determines what people see in public. This is a prerequisite of influence often overlooked by many. Honesty has always been the best policy, but this needs to start with you being honest with you. Challenging who you really are, what you really think, and how you really feel is the fastest way to personal growth that leads to increased capacity for change.
The Moral Of The Story
Walking or running around those who have stopped in the middle of the pathway is not a curse but a blessing. Choosing to create that space for others before it is even required is the decision of a leader invested in making the world a better place, one river walk at a time. Maybe my reflections will help you make it through the challenges of the lockdown. Maybe they will help you rise to be an even better you. It’s all about growing together, right?
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