Nov. 7, 2022

How to Lead Through The Unexpected (Challenge #40)

How to Lead Through The Unexpected (Challenge #40)

As a kind leader, you usually know where you want to go and have a plan on how you want to get there. 
 However, if you take a look back at the goals you have reached thus far, how many times have you actually followed the plan? Most likely, there were blind spots and challenges you didn’t see coming, where your plan went out the window.
 This is similar to our host Sarah Clark’s experience in an in person Peloton class in NYC. She went for a chill Saturday morning ride, and well, it was anything BUT chill. So she thought to herself, “I need a new strategy”. Spoken like a true kind leader!
 In today’s episode, how you can prepare the best way possible to reach your goals, how to re-strategize, and how to see the bigger picture.
 Tune in to hear this and more!


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It was 7:30 AM, and after a half hour of waiting outside and another half hour of checking in and lining up and making small talk, I was ushered into the studio 1 of Peloton’s Manhattan headquarters to take my first in-person ride ever. I was all set to celebrate my 200th peloton ride as well as the weight loss milestone I told y’all about in episode 37. I’d tightened the clips on my pedals, my water bottle was full, I was stretched and excited and ready to ride for an hour with one of my favorite instructors, Matt. I got to my bike, adjusted the seat, clipped in, and started turning my legs over at very light resistance to get the creaks out before Matt came in and the class began. But although the numbers on the screen said it should be feeling effortless, I felt like I was pedaling through chocolate pudding. This was going to be a problem…


Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge! I’m Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild. 

My PhD in higher ed Leadership, my experience advising educational and library leaders all over the world, and a career working in academic libraries from the front desk to the Dean’s office taught me how any leader in any situation can transform their organization so they can make their communities more educated and informed places to live, work, and thrive. 

Kind Leaders know how to make the tough decisions without becoming jerks. We grow our organizations’ impact without burning anyone out. And we’ve learned that when we stop controlling and start collaborating, the impossible becomes effortless. It all sounds pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. So if you’re up for a challenge, stick around for the next 10 minutes as I teach you to part with perfection so your organization can build a better world. 


You see, I wasn’t a local just popping into the studio for a ride. Once I got lucky and scored one of the scarce live seats on Peloton’s ticketmaster-style booking site, my husband and I planned a whole weekend getaway to the city around my class. He’d never been to the statue of liberty and has always wanted to see the plaque with Emma Lazarus’ famous poem The New Colossus on it, so that was the plan for Saturday afternoon after my spin class. We’d IDed some cool looking restaurants in midtown to try, and Sunday would be a swing uptown to explore central park and the metropolitan museum of art before heading back to Penn Station to catch our train home. We’d deliberately kept the schedule kind of loose. However, there was still going to be a lot of walking and sightseeing, we were both coming off fairly hectic weeks at the office, and I already knew I would need to pace myself in that peloton class to get through the weekend in good shape. The last thing I needed was an miscalibrated bike, tired legs, or both making my zone 1 feel like my zone 3.   

And that was before 39 other eager riders started pedaling and raising the temperature in the room. And then the lighting rig blazed to life for the cameras. And Matt came into the room, and our cheers spiked my heart rate 20 points. And then he shared the outline for the day’s class, and what was usually his chill Saturday morning endurance ride was going to be a monster of an interval ride taking us all the way up to zone 6. (for reference, Zone 7 is Maximum Effort). As the class started and we started the warmup in earnest, I knew I might have to change my strategy.

You see, Kind Leaders need to be solid on their goals, but flexible about how they get there. I talk about this more in other episodes and in the mastering challenging conversations checklist, but the clearer you are about your desired outcome, the more easily you can plan your tactics, and shift them as the situation changes. So here I was, 15 minutes into a 60 minute ride, having barely gotten through the first set of intervals with a spiking heart rate and sweat streaming off me from the hot lights and stuffy studio. And I checked in with my goal. My goal was NOT to PR this ride or even hit all the callouts. It was to have an enjoyable experience to kick off an enjoyable weekend of mellow sightseeing with my husband. So the next callout, when everyone else cranked their resistance up to the right and started pounding uphill, I twisted mine a few spins to the left and went back to a flat ride. It was still a workout, but it was a doable one, and one that would leave me with more gas in the tank to achieve my REAL goal for the weekend. I even still had enough oxygen flowing to my brain to make reasonably witty chit chat with Matt during the post-ride meet and greet.    

Did I make the right decision? I never really doubted I had, even though it was the sort of situation that would have had me beating myself up as a failure even just a few years ago. But I still felt a little surge of affirmation later that afternoon when we rounded a corner in the Statue Of Liberty Museum, and immediately saw the famous Plaque with my husband’s favorite poem on it. We’d thought it would be outside, but apparently they moved it out of the elements when they restored the statue back in the 80s. He stood there for a good 5 minutes soaking in the moment, and I stood there for a good 5 minutes soaking in him soaking in the moment, without so much as an aching hamstring or stiff calf to distract me. 

All that said, on the train home, I pulled up the peloton app and bookmarked that class. Some Saturday morning when my legs are fresh and I’m feeling frisky, I’m taking it again on my own bike. Because my goal for that next ride is to hit every callout and probably set a personal record in the process. 

So are you clear on your big goals right now? And what you are and aren’t willing to change in order to get there? If not, take a few minutes to figure that out, and share with the kind leadership challenge community if you want to connect with other likeminded leaders.

Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week’s episode insightful, give the show a rating or review—or even better, share this episode with your fellow leaders!  Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.  

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