My friend, Terry, rides his bike in triathlons. My friend, Hal, thinks there’s no vacation as good as riding his bike from the Canadian border of the United States to the Mexican border. Liz has more modest goals. She’s pictured at left.
Leading and riding a bike have a lot in common. For one thing, pretty much anyone can learn to do both. In both cases, you learn the same way.
My friend, Rod Santomassimo, likes to say that you shouldn’t “KID” yourself. That stands for “Knowing Isn’t Doing.” You don’t learn to ride a bike by reading about it. Same thing with leadership.
Don’t get me wrong, leadership books are great. I read them and write them, and I help other people write them. They’ll give you ideas about what to try. But you won’t learn to lead that way. The only way you learn to lead is by leading. Here are a few other things that leading and riding a bike have in common.
You Fall Down A Lot
When you’re learning to ride a bike, you fall down. You may get bruises or skinned knees. Some people have more serious accidents. You won’t learn to ride a bike without getting it wrong a few times. Leadership is like that, too.
Balance Is Important
Whether you’re riding a bike, or leading a team, balance is important. On a bike, balance keeps you upright and moving forward. When you lead, balance helps you do a good, fair job.
Situational Awareness Is Critical
If you’re riding a bike and you’re not aware of what’s going on around you, bad things can happen. You might get hit by a car, run into a pedestrian, or take a fall because of a crack in the pavement. There’s a lot of things to be aware of when you lead, too.
Every leadership situation is different, and you rarely get much time to sort things out. You must stay aware of the mission, and the expectations, the resources, and the strengths and weaknesses of everyone you deal with.
Just about anybody can learn to ride a bike or learn to lead. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. You won’t get it right all the time. You’ll take some falls. So, you’ve got to keep your balance and stay aware of what’s going on around you.