Tough Mudder: Lessons in Leadership

26 May 2015


Leadership exists in all walks of life, and we can learn lessons from almost every experience. Inspiring over 20 colleagues to undergo months of training, complete one of the world's toughest physical challenges, and raise a record breaking amount of money for our charity was no mean feat, and the experience came with lessons that are just as valuable in the workplace.

Provide a clear sense of direction.
The PayBack Foundation is our own charity at SD Worx that supports disadvantaged children. We've been fortunate enough to help change the lives of some amazing young kids. However, we rely entirely on the fundraising efforts of our colleagues. Therefore we wanted to do something that would push the boundaries, and help us raise a large sum of money to support all of the grant applications that we receive.

With this in mind, 23 colleagues signed up for what is €possibly the toughest event on the planet€ with a clear goal; to survive the challenge and raise at least €20,000 for PayBack! This was a simple goal that clearly defined the success and results we needed to achieve. One common goal across the group was to work together. We brainstormed creative ways of generating maximum funds, and shared training tips to help ensure everybody crossed the finish line.

A clear goal is equally important in the workplace. The clearer the goal, the easier it is for employees to ensure their personal objectives are aligned to the common business goals, which ultimately measures the success of the business as a whole.

Lead by example.
I have always been an anti-runner, and the thought of completing 25 obstacles over 12 miles of hill and muddy terrain filled me with complete and utter dread. However, I now had a loyal group of colleagues ready to join me on the challenge, and it was not an option to withdraw from the challenge.

Withdrawing would not only undermine my personal credibility, but it could also compromise the cohesion of the group and its ability to achieve the goal we set out. As a leader within the team, I had to remain determined, confident and committed to the challenge throughout, ensuring that my positive attitude empowered everyone else in the team.

As a leader, it's important to model the behaviours you seek from those around you. Demonstrate the attitude, commitment and accountability that reflects the values of your company and what you expect from your employees. Leadership and management is one of the main reasons that influence an employee's motivation at work, and as leaders, the values and behaviours we exhibit ultimately shape the culture that we work in.

Teamwork is essential to success.
It almost goes without saying, Tough Mudder requires full blown teamwork and collaboration in order to succeed. In the weeks leading up to the event, there were team members who struggled both emotionally and physically with the preparation required. It took support, coaching and encouragement from others in the team to help one another reach the day itself.

During the challenge, it was amazing to see the trust and relationships that had formed between colleagues, even those that don\'t work closely together. Seeing 8 people work together to pull another colleague up Everest was the epitome of teamwork, and I realised proudly that this is the kind of teamwork we try to inspire every day at SD Worx.

Your greatest asset, without a doubt, is your people, and they are the ones who will ensure success for your business. Spend a significant portion of your time building trust and teamwork amongst your colleagues, and encourage all of your leaders to do the same. Collaboration across your organisation will increase productivity and drive results more quickly and efficiently.

Inspire your people to be the best they can be.
One of most valuable lessons that I learned during Tough Mudder was that I had no chance of succeeding without the support of the colleagues around me. I dedicated a lot of time to encouraging others, and showing my confidence in their ability to overcome the obstacles.

Leaders can make a difference by creating environments in which their colleagues can thrive. Inspire and motivate people to be the best they can be by helping them identify their strengths and passions. By empowering them in this way, colleagues will develop quickly and perform to a much higher standard than those that are simply told what to do. Take time to recognise accomplishments and show your appreciation for your colleagues; you are only as successful as they allow you to be.

Related articles

refresh More articles