12 Unpredictable Leadership Lessons I Learned from Cycling

unpredictable leadership lessons I learned from cycling

It’s surprising what you learn when you’re least expecting it. About yourself. About leadership.

About 6 years ago I bought my non-garage sale bike as an adult. It was a mountain bike, and while I love the trails, I found I loved the road even more.


So two years ago I bought my first new-to-me road bike. (No, that’s not me in the photo. I would be…larger.). Since then I’ve logged almost 5000 km (3000 miles) of riding.

I’m not a pro by any means, but cycling is something I enjoy.

Whatever you think of the spandex wearing crowd,  cycling has given me some leadership lessons that have impacted my thinking, my prayer life and the ministry I do.

Here are a dozen I’ve learned so far that go far beyond cycling and that I hope can help you.

Each insight contains a question I hope can help you make direct application to your context:

1. Most of my unwillingness to ride in a group stems from insecurity. I usually cycle alone 90% of the time. True—I do like the solitude and reflection time. But that’s not the whole story.  Looking back, my unwillingness to cycle with other people has been related to insecurity. I’m not as fast. I’m not that good. You know what I find? Sometimes I’m like that as a leader. I get intimidated by people who are ‘better’ than me and sometimes I end up going it alone when I could go further in a group. Is insecurity holding you back?

2. People who are better than you make you better. I’m riding with others more these days. My fastest rides are almost never solo. Yesterday I went out with a friend who could be a semi-pro rider. 15 minutes into the ride we were average 3 km an hour more than I would ever do on my own. And it wasn’t that hard. People who are better than you make you better. Are you around people who can make you better?

3. There are advantages to being behind a strong leader. When you ride in a group, cyclists enjoy something called ‘drafting‘. The lead rider creates a ‘draft’ or slipstream behind him that other cyclists follow which makes them go faster without as much effort.  The same is true in leadership. If you get behind a strong leader, you’ll enjoy advantages in not having to break all the ground yourself. What advantages might you be missing that you could capitalize on among strong leaders?

4. Most people who are faster than you want to help you, not compete with you. When I started riding with better riders, I discovered they weren’t out to compete, they were out to enjoy the ride and help. In leadership, I’ve discovered that too. Almost every leader I know who has a bigger church, larger following or more influence isn’t trying to compete with me, they usually try to help. Do you assume other leaders are out to help you or compete with you? 

5. You have to start somewhere. When I first started riding, a 20 minute ride was all I could do. Now a 2 hour ride is easily doable. Just because you don’t look like the pros, ride like the pros, or have the savvy of the pros, just get started. I’m by no means a pro, but I love riding now.  Why haven’t you started?

6. Equipment makes a difference. Riding my garage sale bike was like riding a cement block with wheels. When I got my first ‘real’ bike from a bike shop, riding became enjoyable. Sometimes you just need better equipment to get going.  Do you have the equipment you need?

7. But equipment only makes so much difference. I’ve upgraded three times in seven years, but I’m done now. I ride with people who have bikes worth 10x more than I paid for mine, but I realize that I would enjoy none of the benefits of their bike until I become a better rider. I figure I have 2-3 years before I even come close to realizing the potential in my current bike, maybe more. Are you blaming your equipment for your lack of progress?

8. Some things that work against you are measured in dog years. I was listening to a podcast recently from the great folks at Cycling360 who said the best way to be a better cyclist is to lose 10 lbs. In cycling, pounds are measured like dog years. A 10 lb weight loss is like 70 lbs for a non cyclist. I could easily lose 140 dog pounds then!  Been thinking about that – What in your leadership is working against you in dog years?

9. Setting goals makes a difference. I decided to cycle 3000 km (1800 miles) this year.  I just cycle more when I set goals. Do you have clear goals?

10. Measuring your results against others can bring out healthy competition. I decided to start using Strava about a month ago. Its social media for cyclists and it posts your time and compares it to others and your personal best. It’s motivated me to improve like nothing else. Does a sense of healthy self-competition motivate you?

11. Progress carries its own adrenaline. Because I’m able to see through Strava how much I’ve improved since my last outing, I’m motivated to go out even more. Being the best you can be carries an adrenaline that’s kind of amazing. Do you let progress motivate you?

12. Banishing excuses helps you realize new levels. At first I was fair weather cyclist. I hate headwind most of all. But last year I decided the wind was going to be no excuse. Had a couple of rides that almost blew me off the road, but now I go out even on the windiest of days, in light rain and even when it gets cold (yes, I stop when it snows, but some friends don’t). What excuses can you stop making today?

That’s what I’m learning from cycling. What are you learning from your hobbies?

– See more at: http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/08/12-unpredictable-leadership-lessons-i-learned-from-cycling/?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=bufferdb1b0&utm_medium=twitter#sthash.Tk5iaCkI.dpuf


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