[February 16, 2016] I was breaking in a replacement Flag officer at the end of my tour in South Korea and the job required me to work closely with and live alongside my Korean counterparts. My replacement however had difficulty adapting to the new assignment and eventually was sent home early. What did he lack? Physical and emotional stamina.1
Some leaders, we’ve all experienced their conduct, are just a “flash in the pan.” At first they’re passionate and focused but at some point their efforts wane with increased responsibility and the grind that comes with any new senior leadership position. The tenets of leadership have not changed much over time but one leader trait we rarely read about is the one that holds back leaders from becoming truly successful.
Stamina means that a leader has the ability to take on greater responsibilities and stay the course against inevitable obstacles. Stamina refers to physical strength but it also has an emotional component that’s more important. Stamina refers to endurance against conflict and to withstand predictable and unpredictable changes in their circumstances. I’ve seen too many leaders fail because they lacked staying power.
Some of the ways to improve stamina is to remain as physically fit as possible. It doesn’t mean that we have to be a health-club jock but regular physical exercise has been proven to help us think better. We can also take on greater responsibilities progressively so as to slowly build our mental strength. And, just as important, we can find ourselves a mentor who is willing to cheer us on and push us when we need it.
My peers and I learned to laugh and not take everything we did too seriously. Yes, we were persistent but also we were grateful that we were fortunate enough to have been given great responsibilities. As a new lieutenant we met a number of West Point graduates who thought they were the best leaders in the army. Many of them with those entitlement personalities never made it.
Leaders can be the smartest, fastest, and most social adept person. But if they don’t have physical and emotional stamina, they don’t have what it takes to be a great leader.
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