My version of night running involves running in unlit ravines using a headlight to guide me through the pitch black night. Occasionally, I pass lone walkers who aren’t visible until my light hits them. Each time I wonder what they are doing walking in the dark. Perhaps they are wondering why a guy is running with a light on his head. It’s good to wonder about what you don’t understand.
I got my headlight from the Energizer Night Race, where 1,000 people ran 5 and 10K races to raise money for a local hospital. It was an incredible experience seeing 1,000 points of light moving in unison against a starless sky.
Solo night running is a different experience. The only source of light is on your head and you need to position it well to avoid falling. Loss of visibility leads you off the path and onto unsteady ground. This is the dangerous part.
On my run tonight, it struck me how similar night running is to leading organizations. If your headlight, or focus, is pointed directly in front of you then you can’t see what is coming next; if it is pointed too far in the distance, then you can’t see what is immediately in front of you. Both approaches are risky with significant consequences. After some experimentation, night runners and organizations are able to find a sweet spot between short and long-term focus. You need to do both to be successful. You can’t lose sight of where you are going and you must manage what is in front of you along the path.
As I was thinking of this metaphor I lost focus and went off the path. That’s what makes night running and leading organizations exciting and a bit dangerous.