This is a picture of the start of the 110th Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, MA. We started in two waves this year–some 10,000 runners in each wave. What you see in this picture is largely proximity without community. Yet community is very important to marathon training and marathon running. When engaging in the 16-18 week training to prepare for a marathon the week day workouts are easy enough to do alone. And often it is hard to find someone that can match your schedule for weekday runs. But there is a long run required every weekend–that builds up over time to at least a few 20 mile runs and beyond. These are done better with someone else. Running for three hours or more at one level can simply be boring by yourself. Even the ipod playlist gets a little old after while. And more than that the temptation to quit a long run–or to at least cut corners–can become immense when running alone. But running with a fellow trainee can make all the difference. There can be great conversation. There can be the mutual encouragement and accountability to make it to the end of the training run. There can be the help needed if you sustain an injury. Actually, within the long distance running crowd, you will often see a pretty strong community that exists. Even during a race–running with someone is a huge benefit to reaching your goals, or simply completing the course. If you don’t have a running mate for a race you will often see temporary friendships developed on the spot between those of similar skill and pace. Again, the camaraderie to get you through can make the difference.
Leadership is like that too. Leadership has a built in tendency to isolate. The old axiom that it’s lonely at the top is all to real. Sometimes the weight of decision making or people problem solving can leave you seemingly with no one to turn to. And when leaders become isolated all kinds of bad things are in store. God made us for community–real community where there is confession, humility, burden bearing, and prayerful encouragement. We have all seen the headlines of failed spiritual leaders–usually you can track most of the failures back to isolation–lack of community. They had proximity but no real community. You see leadership goes better in community too. We need the freshness–we need the accountability–we need the encouragement. Remember–leadership is an endurance event too. And it was meant to be lived out in community.