Our marketing specialist Miguel Netto recently achieved what very few athletes can claim in their lives. He and 11 other cyclists completed the Unogwaja Challenge. In brief, Unogwaja is an epic 2000km feat of extreme mental and physical exertion. Over 10 days, riders cycle up to 200kms a day, from Cape Town to Durban. On the last day, riders take to the road for another epic challenge, the 90km Comrades Marathon.
Miguel is the only athlete to have conquered Unogwaja three times.
As the most experienced member of the team, Miguel had a deep understanding of the intensity of the challenge. He played a pivotal role in driving his team members forward, encouraging them to overcome their physical exhaustion and building up their mental focus, to ensure that together they could reach their shared goal.
Every team needs that one person. The individual who can lead them from behind, inspiring them to be their best under even the most demanding conditions.
But what makes a good leader? Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield put it best: “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It's about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it… It is about laying the groundwork for others' success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”
To do that, leaders need to cultivate four essential qualities:
The ability to listen. The most imaginative and valuable ideas come from within a team and not only from one person. When a leader is open to the opinions of others, what they hear may make the difference between merely being good and ultimately becoming great.
Commitment to putting the team first. People within teams can quickly see which leaders are truly dedicated to helping them succeed. When a leader puts the needs and desires of others ahead of their own, he or she can influence others to give deliver the best they have in return.
Openness to new answers. The most effective leaders know they don’t have all the answers. Instead, they constantly welcome and seek out new knowledge, tapping into the interest and thoughts of the team around them. This builds trust and inspires others to do the same.
Dedication to selfless service. The old adage says that pride comes before a fall. True leaders know this instinctively. A leader asks nothing of their team that they wouldn’t do themselves. They are not superior, but are one with their team.