Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and director of Management Moment Leadership Services. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to learn more.
What Meghan Vogel Taught Us about Leadership
by Doug Dickerson,posted Jun 11 2012 9:46AM
A good measure of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better. – Jim Rohn
Chronicled in countless newspapers across the country including ESPN, we were all inspired by the recent act of kindness of high school junior Meghan Vogel. At the recent Division III girls state track meet at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, a high school junior by the name of Meghan Vogel captured the hearts thousands around the country.
In the finals Meghan had won the girls 1,600 meters race. In a personal best, she posted a time of 4:58:31, the first time she had broken the five minute mark. After an awards ceremony Meghan had time to take a short break to rest and get ready for the 3,200 in which she was seeded seventh.
Three laps into the eight lap race, Vogel was falling off the pace. As she rounded the final turn she could see that another runner, Arden McMath, who hadn’t finished yet either, was struggling and then fell to the track.
When Vogel reached McMath she stopped and helped her up. With an arm around her shoulder and to the cheers of a standing ovation, they finished the race together. And if this act of sportsmanship was not enough already, when they reached the finish line, Vogel made sure that McMath crossed first because she had been ahead of her in the race.
The inspiration we draw from this remarkable story and the act of kindness by Meghan Vogel is a leadership lesson for all of us. What this young lady demonstrated at her track meet are transferable principles that will make you a better leader. Here are a few take-away lessons from Meghan.
How you finish is more important than where you finish. At that point in the race it was already a foregone conclusion that neither of the girls was going to win the race. In the competitive marketplace that is all some are concerned with. Yet, as Vogel demonstrated, where you finish is not nearly as important as how.
How are you running your race? Do you notice when others around you stumble or fall? Are you ready to lend a hand? Audrey Hepburn said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” That’s wisdom worth practicing.
Kindness matters and people notice. After Meghan stopped to help Arden and continue the race it was up on the video board for all to see. The crowd stood and began to cheer. It was a touching moment and fitting tribute for a selfless act of sportsmanship.
The late Princess Diana said, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Your act of kindness may not be on a video screen for the world to see, but as Meghan said, “I just did what I knew what right and what I was supposed to do.”
Your character shines in the face of adversity. Faced with her own struggle to finish the race, Meghan noticed that a fellow competitor was struggling and falls to the track. If we have learned anything the past few years in leadership and in business, we’ve learned this; times are tough and people are stressed.
How will you respond in the face of adversity? Arthur Golden said, “Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” On the track at Jesse Owens stadium, Meghan Vogel’s character was not discovered, it was revealed.
Moments of destiny are rarely scripted. For Meghan Vogel and Arden McMath, it was just another day at the track running another set of races. I am sure neither one could have predicted the events that would unfold nor how their lives would connect in such a powerful way. But our moments of destiny are not always appointments we make in advance.
In leadership as in life, the choices we make-those random acts of kindness, our attitude in the face of adversity, in placing our principles above position, are valuable lessons going forward. Meghan taught us well.