Taking a ‘Run’ at Being a Leader

Originally published on May 23, 2018 by The Montrose Daily Press

Though it’s been nearly 20 years, I can still remember the feeling: I decided I was going to become a runner. Though I hardly felt worthy of such a title at the time. When I pictured a runner, I saw rock hard abs, long muscular legs, and the ability to run like the wind. I was lacking in all three departments.

So I bought a pair of running shoes. I ran on treadmills, streets, sidewalks and trails. I downloaded a training plan and trained for my first half marathon. I ran my first half marathon. The day of the race, I observed the “actual” runners around me. They had faster times, tighter abs, and effortless poise. I felt like I had so far to go.

Over time, my thinking matured. I realized no magic wand would deem me a runner. I had to give myself permission based on facts rather than assumptions. And the fact was: the day I laced up those shoes, walked out the door, and hit the pavement was the day I became a runner.

Leadership is no different. We need the training, the tools, and great leaders who inspire us. We need practice and a foundation built on character. However, we will never be a leader until we see ourselves as one and we give ourselves permission. Leadership is a participant sport.

This past week, the chamber celebrated 17 community members who spent the last nine months completing our Montrose U leadership program. Participants learned about their own personality styles, those of others and making the two work together. They discussed hot topics in the community and passionately debated on them. Students listened in as presenters shared experiences in local government, healthcare, public lands, education and more. We graduated 17, well-rounded individuals who now have an in-depth view of the community we share.

I was honored by the privilege of speaking at the graduation ceremony. I told the graduates they now had all the tools, but in order to employ them (the tools) as the “next generation of community leaders”, they must stand up and lead. They must engage. They must be confident.

We have to be brave and use our voice. We have to speak up in staff meetings. We have to share our opinions on topics we are passionate about. We have to lend our perspective to decision makers. We have to lead movements for the greater good. A CEO title is not required to be a changemaker.

Last week, I was facing an issue in my own work environment. The more I thought about it, the more upset I became. “Someone should do something about this!” I thought. I even sent my boss an emotional text message expressing my desire for someone to fix it (the workplace equivalent of drunk dialing). I expected him to do something about my problem since he is in charge.

Well, it just so happens this issue surfaced as I was preparing my Montrose U graduation speech. While out on a run (since I am a full-fledged runner now), the light bulb went off. If you want someone to assert some leadership into this situation, then stand up and lead. Not even two hours later, we were able to take action toward a solution.

So if you want to be a leader, now you know. The only permission you need is your own. It really is as simple as that. People will follow you. Just lace up those leadership shoes, open the door and go out and lead.

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation for the City of Montrose. Contact her at chelsea@montrosechamber.com.