Martin Buser brought a special lesson on leadership learned from participating in the Iditarod to Western state officials attending the CSG-WEST meeting in Anchorage Thursday morning: Every member of the team counts.
“Often I get asked, ‘who are your best dogs?’ Or ‘what’s your leader’s name,” Buser, a four-time Iditarod champion, said. “I say it really doesn’t matter. I don’t go as fast as my fastest dog. I simply go as fast as my slowest dog.”
Often, he said, a team can go faster if it drops the weakest members. But if you keep doing that, you eventually lose all the team members.
“One person is not going to win the race,” he said. “So from a leader’s perspective, it’s actually way more important for me to focus on what I call the bottom of the totem pole. The relative weakest member of the team determines the pace of the operation.”
He said it’s important for leaders to be able to delegate and trust in their teams.
He related how an Iditarod musher had one lead dog for many years, and when the dog was 12 years old, it was time to train a new lead dog.
“In those years it was never even a part of the mindset to delegate to the point where lots of individuals can take over your job,” Buser said.
In teams now, he said, 60 percent to 80 percent of dogs could serve as the lead dog. That’s good, said Buser, who has run the 1,100 mile race 25 times.
“The ability to share the workload and have other members of your team step into your operation is very, very important,” he said. “That old notion that you have a little power base and you keep it to yourself has long come and gone.”
Buser spoke at the opening session of the CSG-WEST meeting Thursday. Sen. Lesil McGuire of Alaska, CSG-WEST chair, presented Buser with a token of appreciation (pictured) after this talk.
Western state lawmakers will discuss how to better use e-communications to deal with constituents, and will meet on such policy areas as energy and environment, education, transportation and health. They’ll hear from political strategists Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile, as well as historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and James Bradley.