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For several years I’ve used running as an alternative way to meet with some of the leaders I advise. The combination of activity, nature, and being side by side brings a different quality to the conversation that can be helpful.

Today I added another sport to the arsenal: Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP).

For those who haven’t tried it, SUP is sort of a cross between canoeing and surfing. You stand on a fairly large board and use a long paddle to make your way across the water. My wife and I have been doing it for a few years and we love it!

I’ve introduced a bunch of people to the sport and I always tell them; “The first 30 seconds it will seem impossible, but then you’ll settle in a bit and it will start to work really quickly”. With the right board, and a willingness to get wet occasionally, almost anyone can learn and enjoy it.

While paddling today the leader I was with commented that he could feel the muscles in his feet and lower legs working constantly to find and maintain balance. It’s absolutely true. It takes a while to get used to the constant corrections your body needs to make to stay upright. Most of it is subconscious, and it has to happen.

I think the same is true for finding balance in life and leadership. Especially when trying something new we often find that we are constantly having to make small adjustments to stay on top of things. We do a lot of it intuitively and spontaneously, but it can be fatiguing. Over time we become more comfortable and confident and find it all comes more naturally.

We also noticed today how much easier it was to stay balanced when we were going with the wind and waves. Somehow that extra momentum had us forgetting how tricky it really was, until we turned around and had to fight against it.

There are seasons of leadership where things are going pretty well and we can forget how complex and important leading really is. But when our course or the circumstances around us change we can suddenly find ourselves struggling to not go under, let alone to make any headway.

The leadership lessons from our SUP session pretty much write themselves. The challenge will be applying them.

The good news is, the leader I paddled with today is eager to come out again, and to take what we’re learning back to his organization. I think I’ll be “SUPsulting” with a few others this summer. 

What unusual activity had taught you something that has helped your leadership?

If you want to set up a runsult, SUPsult, or just a regular conversation about healthy leaders and healthy organizations you can contact us here.