What I Learned About Leadership From Cycling - Part 2 of 3

In my last blog, I offered three insights I gleaned from my time cycling.  There are actually nine lessons in all, and in order to keep these posts readable, I’m offering them in three installments.  Here’s Part 2. 

  • Don’t start out without the right resources – Several years ago, I participated in a three-day 225-mile group ride through Colorado.  As beautiful as the Rockies are, they lack one critical element:  air.  Even worse is their extra dose of mountain climbs.  When I signed up for the ride, I had a bike with only two gears on the front crank instead of a third one which makes climbing much easier.  “Real” cyclists scoff at the third gear, referring to it as the “granny gear.”  Wisely, I recognized that at my age, I needed every advantage possible, so I got a new bike, granny gear and all.  I can assure you that the third gear was thoroughly utilized!

Unfortunately, health care organizations sometimes embark on new ventures without a realistic sense of their capabilities.  They may lack the internal expertise, depth of staffing, or just plain money necessary for success and sometimes pay the price down the road.  Jesus told two parables – one about the necessity of a king to assess his army’s strength before declaring war on an opponent, and one about a builder determining if he has sufficient resources to launch a construction project – about the wisdom of realistic assessments.  How many healthcare initiatives ultimately fail through inadequate or naïve planning?


  • Recognize the role of teamwork – An amazing phenomenon in biking is drafting, where cyclists ride in a line with their wheels only about 6 - 12 inches apart.  This can be harrowing when cruising along at 20+ miles per hour, but the increased efficiency for the riders in the back is astounding.  I have heard that the diminished drag reduces the drafting riders' efforts by as much as 30%.  When each rider takes a turn out front bearing the brunt of the wind, the entire group performance is remarkably enhanced.

Similarly, some of the most pleasurable experiences at work occur when a talented team of individuals shares the load by selflessly working together out of their areas of strength to tackle a major challenge for the good of the organization without regard for individual glory.


  • Recognize that sometimes it is all about you – If I'm out on the road alone training for a particular ride, working to improve my "legs and lungs," my objective should be to maximize my individual performance.  This is especially true if I will participate in a “relay triathlon” where one person does the swim, another does the bike ride, and a third does the run.  You perform as individuals but win as a team.

Although most work efforts involve teamwork, occasionally, a particular issue may stand or fall on an individual executive's abilities.  In those cases, my primary concern should be to prepare myself to excel as much as possible.  If the organization is depending on me, I owe it to everyone to be in top form.


See the next installment for Part 3!