When I was a kid growing up in a sports-manic household in the suburbs of Philadelphia, when the Olympics rolled around our world stopped as those two weeks were all Olympics all-the-time. One of my favorite events in the summer Olympics was the decathlon. A decathlete competes in a 2 day, 10 event competition to find the world’s best athlete. Why was I intrigued by this event?

This track and field event tests an athlete’s versatility, endurance, and skill across a wide range of track and field events. To become the best, athletes need a combination of physical abilities, mental strength, and strategic planning. Body and mind.

Where does strategy fit in? A champion decathlete rarely if ever wins every event. In fact, decathlon athletes cannot over train on any one event – they have to be pretty good at all events and during those 2 days, they must decide where to allocate their energies.

This is where my brain drifted the other day with this thought.

The best community leaders need to help their community be good in a number of activities and can not and should not over-optimize on any one activity.

Let me take this decathlon metaphor the rest of the way. Here are 10 qualities a great decathlete must possess:

  • Physical Fitness
  • Technical Proficiency
  • Endurance and Recovery
  • Mental Toughness
  • Strategic Planning
  • Training Balance
  • Competition Awareness
  • Consistency
  • Adaptability
  • Dedication

Now, let me convert these to community-leader language:

  • Physical Fitness ~ The infrastructure that supports the community.
  • Technical Proficiency ~ Understanding the tools necessary.
  • Endurance and Recovery ~ It’s a 20 year journey.
  • Mental Toughness ~ The ability to withstand pressures from many constituents.
  • Strategic Planning ~ Prioritizing what is important now and what you can say “no” to.
  • Training Balance ~ The ability of the community team to bring a balance of skills & perspectives.
  • Competition Awareness ~ Let’s replace competition with “peers” to see what others are doing and having success or failure with.
  • Consistency ~ Founders NEED consistency – so do the stakeholders.
  • Adaptability ~ these are all experiments as there is not one playbook.
  • Dedication ~ there are no overnight success stories so play the long game.

Not a week goes by without a discussion with a community leader that is trying to be the best 100m sprinter. And yet we know that community building is a marathon too.

I’ll end on this saying of mine – “operate with the urgency of today and the patience for tomorrow. Maybe channel your inner decathlete.