Setting the Pace

Roger bannister, four minute mile, mindset, leadership

On the 6th of May 1954, three thousand spectators watched a 25 year old British medical student run the mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.  Roger Bannister became the first man ever to run the mile under 4 minutes. The miracle four-minute-mile was considered by experts to be an impenetrable barrier until that historic day in May when Bannister proved the experts wrong and put himself in the record books.

The four-minute-mile was both a psychological and physical barrier for all athletes until Bannister ran it. The moment the news spread across the world that Bannister had broken the record, the mythical power of the elusive four-minute-mile was shattered. What was considered impossible became achievable the moment it became possible.

Other athletes were motivated and within two months, Bannister’s record was broken by the Australian, John Landy, who ran 3 minutes 57.9 seconds. Today, many athletes have run the mile in under four minutes, but it was Roger Bannister’s lead that inspired them to go for it.

The Bannister story illustrates the power of mindsets. Mindset can be defined as a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations. The moment Roger Bannister broke the four-minute-mile was the moment that the limiting mindset which restrained other athletes was broken.

A leader’s mindset can increase or hinder his/her leadership influence. This is because followers buy into the mindsets of their leaders. Good leaders set the pace and followers take their cues from them. It takes strong leadership to break limiting mindsets in any organization or group because it requires a possibility mindset. Roger Bannister never adhered to the impossibility mindset that most athletes held about running the mile in under four minutes. He knew that if he conditioned his body (physical) and mind (psychological), then he had a chance of breaking the four-minute-barrier. Our mindsets determine whether we accomplish the goals we set for ourselves.

The current world record holder for the mile is the Morroccan, Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran it in 3 minutes, 43.13 seconds in 1999. But it was Bannister, who set the pace for the rest, that deservedly receives the greatest accolades and acclaim.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Setting the Pace

  1. Adelaide

    Hi
    it’s been a while since I have been on the blog but thank you so much; you are always providing us with nuggets of leadership wisdom.
    I think it’s important for us to understand what we mean by mindsets, how are they created, how does one guard against that as a leader? It is such an impoartant issue you have highlighted because this narrowed thinking, driven by historical/personal values that creates an organisational culture that fosters reduced growth, develpments and productivity in any
    organisation. What are the signs of a developed mindset (ones way of understanding how things are or should be) that is hindering ones ability to be an effective leader?

  2. Ogechi

    This piece reminds me of the tower of Babel. I mean, we need to always keep in mind that it’s only GOD who can declare something impossible for us. And when HE does, it’s for a good reason.

    I dare say ‘impossible’ is what happens right before ‘possible’ takes a chance. This is definitely a problem in mindsets today. Instead of drawing strength and being inspired by our leaders, we let them mark how far we can go.
    On the other hand, I also agree that leaders can effectively stunt their followers’ mindsets with their influence-ability.

    I’ve got all these goals I’ve set. So ya, now it’s to free my self to set a pace…so i can inspire someone to do even better.

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