Leadership on the Rails: What We Can Learn from a Winning Dog Sled Musher

Post by Ross Stonecipher on March 10, 2017

Imagine you are a leader with a team of sixteen. Your assignment is to self-propel you and your team 979 miles across wilderness as fast as possible. Sound like fun? Oh, yeah, it’s dead winter, and the group is traveling from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. Are you and your team still ready for this assignment?

Meet Dallas Seavey, and the Alaskan classic Iditarod race. Dallas is a 30-year-old man who has already won this race four times. He won his first race at the age of 25, and on March 6th, began the 2017 race. He is one of only seven people in the history of the race to win more than three times.

Dallas is a powerful speaker, and last fall at the Building Champions Experience, he spoke about the leadership lessons learned from his profession, and how they apply to our lives and business.

Know your Team

Firsthand knowledge of every possible situation or circumstance you might encounter will be something your team can confront and conquer. If you push your team to do something beyond their capabilities, you will lose their trust, confidence, and willingness to be led.

  • Application Question: Is your team ready for any circumstance or situation they will encounter?

Leaders and Teams Solve Problems

When Dallas and the team encounter an obstacle, they have a foundation built to problem solve. They each trust the skills and abilities of one another and know that, together, they are much stronger than any subset.

  • Application Question: Does your team have a foundation in problem solving?

Share a Passion for the Journey

Dallas and his team may never win another race, but the passion that he and his team share is about the journey and experience. Leaders and teams don’t always win, but they grow stronger with each journey they encounter. The learning gained from problem solving and teamwork through the process of preparation propels the next endeavor.

  • Application Question: Is your team excited and engaged to be on the journey, or just along for the ride?

Analyze your Resources

The Seavey family has a tradition in this race. Dallas’ grandfather competed in the very first Iditarod race in 1973, competing four times overall, but unfortunately never winning. And, Dallas’ father, Mitch, has won the race twice out of his 23 runs, and is currently competing this year. This family has been raising dogs, mushing, and competing in the Iditarod for 44 years. The heritage of their knowledge base must run deep. How many training trips have they ran in 44 years? How many conversations with breeders, veterinarians, dog food providers, sled builders, trainers, nutritionists, meteorologists, and fellow mushers has the family had access to over that span of time? Do you think they have a winning formula?

  • Application Question: What resources do you have access to that you are not yet utilizing for the betterment of your team?

While we may not be making the run to Nome, here are a few quotes from Dallas Seavey for you to consider as you lead your team:

  • “My biggest value is to not run myself into the ground, but to care for the team. That’s what I learned in thousand-mile racing.”
  • “How we interact with variables defines who we are as a leader on our teams.”
  • “When you encounter an obstacle, you need to possess a foundation in problem solving. It’s too late to develop a new way to communicate.”
  • “My biggest value to the team is patience and being a good coach. The rest of the team are much better athletes than I am.”

Follow Dallas and Mitch’s quest to win yet another Iditarod!

 


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Ross Stonecipher

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