Leadership: Why I Made the Team After Coming in Last

Kathryn HaydonBusiness, Grow Your Creativity

Leadership: Why I Made the Team After Coming in Last

By Kathryn P. Haydon

Business, Grow Your Creativity

Are You a Transformational Leader?

When I was a freshman in college, I wanted to get into a new sport. Rumor had it that you didn’t need crew experience to try out for the women’s rowing team. Instead, the try-out consisted of a five-mile run from Evanston along Sheridan Road, past Plaza del Lago in Wilmette, and back (for my Chicagoan readers).

Having played basketball and tennis in high school, I had run sprints but never a long distance.

Out of at least 100 runners, I came in dead last.

But I made the team. 

The captain of the varsity crew ran with me, slowly, the entire way. It was so embarrassing.

“I don’t understand how I could make the team if I’m last,” I gasped as I struggled for breath.

“Oh, we’ll get you into running shape,” she said. “It’s perseverance we’re looking for.”

Boy was she right. Multiple practices a day, including runs, weights, and sprints on the rowing machine did the trick.

I worked hard, but I’d never have done it if that varsity captain hadn’t evidenced the four characteristics of a transformational leader:

1. She served as a role model, patiently running with me and doing all of the workouts alongside the freshmen.

2. She was sensitive to my individual (lack of) experience and provided the support I needed to be successful.

3. She motivated me throughout the run and the first months of practice with a vision of success.

4. She supported me to use my own creativity to design my experience on the team.

Really, it comes down to one central point:

Transformational leaders commit themselves to developing others to their fullest potential.

– Puccio, Mance, and Murdock, Creative Leadership, Sage 2011

Are you a transformational leader?

Do you commit yourself to developing others to their fullest potential? 

Parents can be leaders.

Teachers can be leaders.

Students can be leaders.

Line workers can be leaders.

Administrative assistants can be leaders.

Consultants can be leaders.

Interns can be leaders.

CEOs can be leaders.

It’s all in the mindset, and the mindset informs the approach.

To support people’s full potential, we must support their creativity, because creative thinking is the highest form of mental functioning.

To support people’s full potential, we must use our own creative thinking. 

To be effective, it is essential that we constantly exercise and grow our own creativity.

I still can’t quite tell you the secret that I can’t wait to tell you, but suffice it to say that Sparkitivity is hyper-focused on providing materials, resources, and learning opportunities to help you be more creative, especially when it comes to your primary job.

If you would like individual training to power up your creative thinking, check out our Creativity and Innovation Intensive for Leaders or Short-Term Strategic Consulting.  If you want to help your whole team, consider our professional development opportunities for businesses and schools.

*Image courtesy of Northwestern University Women’s Crew via The Daily Northwestern


Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.

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