Why the front runner never looks back








Watch sprinters tear around a track and you might notice their high level of concentration and singular focus on reaching the finish line. They can appear oblivious to hyped-up crowds and just about any other kind of distraction. They always look ahead and no matter where opponents are, the front runner never, ever looks back.

Turning to see an opponent’s position slows forward momentum and can allow a runner to drift into another lane, which can be disastrous. Sprinters know that losing even a fraction of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing a race.FrontRunner

It’s not that they are unaware of surroundings. Quite the contrary, sprinters learn to rely on things like peripheral vision, hearing, and intuition to know where their opponents are at all times.

Leaders and those who aspire to leadership roles can learn a lot from sprinters.

  1. Be prepared. Every runner on the track has already put in countless hours of training. Even naturally gifted athletes need first-rate training, coaching and support. The same is true with leaders.
  2. Shut out the noise. Avoid distractions and remain focused. Know where you stand, who’s surrounding you, and where they stand. Learn to rely on instincts and intuition, but don’t over rely on them. Apply what you’ve learned and trained to do.
  3. Don’t lose sight of your goals. Before a race, sprinters can seem to be in their own world. They don’t want to lose focus. Organizations of all kinds have internal politics and power struggles. It’s easy to get caught up in them and sometimes they are unavoidable. But never turn to look back and engage those whose goal is to take you down. If you do, you can easily lose sight of where you’re going and stray off course.
  4. Don’t underestimate adversaries. Top athletes make a point of knowing how good their opponents are. They study their performance to understand their strengths and shortcomings. Pretending rivals lacks talent and ability doesn’t make it so. It just makes you more vulnerable.
  5. You’re part of a team. All of us think of sprinters as individual achievers. We love star performers, whether in sports or business. But behind the scenes are coaches, trainers, colleagues and support staff who constantly and consistently challenge and push them to be their best.
  6. Know who your real friends are. When you’ve emerged victorious, it seems logical to surround yourself with the people who supported you. But make sure those people share your vision and they are competent enough to help you develop and execute solid, smart strategy based on that vision.
  7. Learn from your mistakes. Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said: ” If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” Everyone makes them but too many leaders are slow to admit to it.  Owning your mistakes opens the door for others to help you avoid making the same errors again. Rivals won’t quickly forget the things you’ve done wrong, so it’s up to you to show what you have learned and how you’re putting it to good use.
  8. Learn from your opponents’ mistakes. This might seem obvious but you might be surprised how many people in leadership roles never pay attention to the mistakes of others, especially rivals.
  9. Forego the bravado. Perhaps the only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner. While you’re busy taking a victory lap, your detractors are probably regrouping and studying your vulnerabilities. As tempting as it might be, gloating and sticking it in the eye of your adversaries will only increase their resolve, undermine future coalition building opportunities and cause supporters to question your leadership.
  10. Get over it, already. Internal organizational politics can often leave everyone involved bruised and embittered. It can be easy for everyone to forget or abandon shared goals and objectives. This is no time to sulk. And as much as you’d like, you can’t always smooth everything over. But you can, and should, make a sincere effort to reach out to rivals and mend damaged relationships.

©2015 Robert Naylor Coaching and Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved

Robert Naylor is a journalist, journalism educator, consultant, certified coach, facilitator, and speaker who helps people become better leaders, improve workplace performance, and find focus in their careers and life. He is available for on-site training, private coaching, keynote presentations, and commentary. For more information visit naylorcoaching online or contact

Connect with Robert on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook


Comments are closed.