This has been a very busy summer, but the past few weeks my daughter's and I have begun extending the length of our bike rides. Where we live, we are on the outskirts of town where there aren't a lot of residential streets to venture through. We have gotten tired of the same routes, so we decided to expand our route and venture further into town.
We All Want to Lead
While these excursions have been great experiences as I get to hang out with my kids, be outdoors, and get some exercise, they have taught me a few things. One of the first things is that everyone wants a chance to lead. During our rides we have experienced many discussions of who gets to lead. They each want their turn, and they want to be able to decide where we go and how we will get there. As I mentioned before our choices are fairly limited, so our last few adventures have allowed us to open the door to possibilities.
There Are Times We Need Guidance
It is true that everyone wants to have their voice heard, and have the opportunity to chose the direction we travel, there are also times when they don't want to lead. I found this out when my youngest was leading our ride down a new path through town. Normally she is out in front and we are riding at a pretty good pace and things are going pretty smoothly. But during this ride we were going in a different direction and heading toward a round about on a fairly busy street. I noticed that she was slowing down. We were all bunching up and I was thinking the two kiddos might end up bumping into each other because the pace had slowed so much. I realized she wasn't racing ahead because she wasn't sure where to go. We hadn't been this way before and she wasn't sure how to navigate the obstacles of the round about. Once I realized this and gave her instructions on how we were going to proceed, she was fine. We got to the round about, navigated our way through and she took off again on the other side of the street.
Lead From Behind, Lead From the Front
The traditional thinking about how to lead is that you are out in front. During our rides, I tend to be in the back of the line, or to the side if there is a sidewalk and a bike lane I ride in the lane while they are off the road. In the position from the back of the line I am able to see what they are doing and help direct them as necessary. This happens most often when we are all on the road and I need to remind them to stay to the right. I wouldn't be able to do this if I were out in front. Front the front I couldn't see them veering out into traffic or away from the side of the road. I wouldn't be able to protect them. The other important aspect of leading from behind is that I allow them the opportunity to take on the role of leader. They get to choose our path and make decisions.
On the other hand there are times when I needed to move to the front to help them negotiate situations. They needed help in determining if they could cross the street, and how to navigate the busy round about intersection. By moving to the front, I took the decision making burden and risk off of their shoulders and made it for them. After we crossed the street, I turned the leadership back to them. This allowed them to experience being a leader and having control over our journey.
Leadership is a partnership not a position
While on our bike rides, while I may be the adult in the group, I can't physically force my kids to pedal their bikes or even go for a ride in the first place. I have to work with them to agree on where we want to go. If not, we don't move forward. The same is true for leadership in general. I have come to understand that success comes through a collaborative effort. I love the example of the lone nut video. If you are trying to make change, but don't have others working with you towards the same goal, you are a lone nut. But if you build consensus and support for your effort you are able to move forward. The thing to remember as you move forward is that while you might be the "Leader" you are only going forward if the group is on board with your mission or vision.