I recently attended a two day retreat for team building and leadership. One of the activities of the retreat was a "Great Race" event. During this event, four teams competed in five events, with the winning team finishing first. Three of the five events were fun: assembling a puzzle, solving riddles, and a scavenger hunt.
Two of the events involved eating food that was not part of our everyday diets--foods that let's just say would make us squeemish at best or cause us the physical discomfort of vomiting at worst. In addition, the quantity of these foods was large. We were not only supposed to eat the foul-tasting stuff, we had to eat a lot of it. AND much of the food was prepared with lots of salt. Another group was supposed to consume a large quantity of sugary candy.
My team, troopers that we were, complied. We ate; we retched; and we suffered the discomforts of this event, both during and after. At the end, when the prize was being handed out (we were second, no prize--first prize was a silly statue), we were praised for our perseverance.
After I got home, I reflected on this experience. As probably the oldest in the group, I DO understand that I might be accused of being a fuddy-duddy with the explanation that these eating events were all in fun. Yet, I am a bit ashamed that I just didn't stand up and LEAD MY TEAM by saying, "No I won't make myself sick or eat things that are bad for me just to win a race."
Leadership is important, and often requires sacrifice and pain. It also requires standing up for the stupid things you are asked to do that serve no purpose. While I MAY have exhibited some small level of leadership and teamwork by going along and eating things that could have made me physically ill, I missed an even bigger opportunity to show leadership and teamwork by saying, "Hey, I appreciate all the thought that went into this event, but I politely decline to participate because I'm being asked to do something that is physically painful, possibly dangerous, not in my best interest, and serves no higher purpose than winning a race. I encourage you, the rest of my team, to do the same."
That would have been true leadership.