Leadership On Two Wheels
An article on what leadership can mean by Vishal Bhardwaj, MBA I Marketing
There’s something about riding a motorcycle that brings out the philosopher in most people. (Of course, in some it brings out the cartoon roadrunner.) I, too, have had my musing moments, both while weaving through Pune’s crazy, erratic traffic and cruising along the many lovely, winding roads outside the city. What follows is just one of those realisations.
I’ve spent many happy hours riding around the city with a group of friends, all on bikes. Over time, I’ve come to observe a group dynamic that naturally develops among bikers riding together. You see, the group effectively acts like a team, with everyone moving together and the lead rider the undeclared team-leader. I say undeclared, but in fact his role is very much that of any leader in any situation. This is where some interesting analogies with business scenarios emerge.
While it’s all too tempting for the first rider to race off through the traffic, keeping only a speedy arrival at the destination as a priority, he must maintain a carefully regulated speed to ensure the group stays together. This is easier said than done. Firstly, he must keep in mind the speed limit of the slowest bike in the group. No man must be left behind and, to ensure this, the leader must know the strengths and limitations of each one. The lead rider’s attention is essentially divided between the road ahead of him and his rear-view mirrors, often at the cost of his own speed and safety. He must also sacrifice the little thrills of catching a green light at the last second or of zooming through a closing gap between two buses, lest the rider behind him attempt the same and land in trouble, or worse. In close traffic, it’s his job to find the gaps, to carve out a route through the jam or take necessary detours or short-cuts. Even when one of the bikes in his rear-view mirror disappears from sight for too long, he stops the others and checks on the straggler to see if he’s had a breakdown or needs rescuing from the traffic police. Finally, every now and then, he must uncomplainingly let another rider overtake and take over as leader, because that’s just how it is with any team.
The parallels with business leadership may now have become too obvious to elaborate upon, but I’ll leave you with one final thought. The next time you see a biker riding at the head of a motorcycle gang, remember that for him/her, being ahead of the others is mostly about looking out behind for them.