I have been running with a group for the last nine months and just a couple of weeks ago the coach asked me to be the pacer for one of the teams. Being asked by the coach to lead the team started me thinking 'why did he let me lead?' My observations of the coach's process of choosing a leader (intentional or just natural) give good insight how any leader (coach) can let someone else lead and set them up for success. Observe their skills
When I first started running with the group the coach and I did not know each other, but our shared joy of the task of running put us together. Through a training schedule the coach observed my skill and how I kept up with the group.
Identify potential leaders from the group
As the weeks passed it seemed the coach was intentional on getting to know each member of the group and observe those who would be potential leaders.
Through the weekly training the coach was willing to meet my quest for more information by answering my questions of 'why' and 'how' and show me how the answers could be applied personally and to the group.
Spend one-on-one time
Our weekly Saturday runs were with a large group and often I was not close to the coach, but with a simple invitation I was included in a mid-week run with a small group. During most of the mid-week runs it was just me and the coach. It was in these miles and hours that the coach continued to observe and invest in my potential as a team leader.
Have the leader ready before he is needed.
It wasn't right away that I was given the chance to lead, but because of the training and the investment in me as a person and a leader I was ready whenever the coach called.
Lay out expectations
When the coach gave me the chance to lead he was clear to lay out the expectations: he gave me the map and told me what pace to keep the team moving toward the goal.
Give them a chance for success.
Our big group runs are divided into teams, segregated by estimated time of finish or by pace. When the coach asked me to lead a team it wasn't a team with a pace that I could not meet but rather a team whose pace was slower than my regular group. Giving me the chance to lead this team set me up for a successful first time lead. If I had been asked to lead a team that ran faster than my training pace it would have been a failure...the team would have been faster than me...there was no way I could lead.
Get feedback from those he led
At the end of the run the coach first asked me to evaluate the experience and then proceeded to speak with members of the team on how successful the run was.
Give honest feedback
After gathering all the information, the coach was willing to offer honest feedback and include positive remarks. This feedback gave me the desire to improve and say yes the next time I was asked to lead.
Leading a group of runners is not a business critical action or process, however, the observations about identifying, training and empowering leaders can be applied to any organization. The observations in this post were a great reminder to me of how important it is to be intentional about raising up new leaders.
And...thanks David for being a great example of a servant leader.