One need look no further than to the motorcycling community to discover behind the leather and armor, is a best in class curriculum for leadership development. Ironically, while leadership pundits have dissected Fortune 500 corporations to understand why they’re successful, a community rooted in counterculture breeds leaders with the same qualities sought by organizations worldwide.
While it’s true, riders love to get out on the open road and ride, the preparations, skills and experiences that allow that to happen safely, also create leaders. Like any community, the individuals within it represent a variety of interests, perspectives and preferences. What they share, beyond the physical and cognitive skills needed to operate their machines, are the following leadership skills and attributes:
- Independence. Riding a motorcycle is a solitary pursuit. When we’re riding, it’s us and our motorcycle. We need to be in tune with and comfortable with who we are. Even when we’re riding with a group, we’re alone with our thoughts, our fears and our beliefs. When we ride, we alone make the decisions about how our motorcycle is ridden and where it goes. As we deal successfully with progressive challenges, the successes are ours to claim.
- Change Management. A ride is always an adventure to some degree. Things happen when we’re out there. It starts to rain, there’s gravel in a corner, someone cuts us off, a detour diverts our carefully planned route, our GPS stops working. The list is endless, and when we’re motoring down the road on a five-hundred-pound-plus machine, things can unfold in a hurry. We have to have our wits about us at all times. We learn to be prepared for the unexpected and to make quick decisions.
- Risk Management. Although non-riders seem compelled to relate horror stories and gruesome details of people who have been killed or maimed, riders are already aware of the risks. We accept them and prepare for them.The consequences of poor risk management are dire. By overcoming initial fears, often exacerbated by exaggerated, unfounded tales, we reap incredible rewards. No one knows what’s around the next corner. We’ve learned to assess the effects of weather, speed, road conditions, travel distances and fatigue and respond appropriately.
- Confidence. Riders have the courage to be who they are and not bow to stereotypes or be stopped by being told they’re too short, too weak or too feminine, or they’ll never learn. Those whose first experiences are in mid-life, have had longer to accumulate fears which they need to overcome. But when they do get past any self-erected obstacles, the joy they experience is that much greater.
- Sense of Community. We all seek like-minded spirits. Most new riders are amazed at the instant bond and the camaraderie and compassion among riders. There is a common bond from which we not only derive strength as individuals, but also gather that strength to increase the cohesiveness of the community as a whole. Motorcyclists tend to contribute extraordinary amounts of time and effort to charitable causes, nurturing the less fortunate and sharing with the community.
Next time you see a biker, look past his or her gear and consider what they’ve had to accomplish to become who they are. Regardless of the personal or professional choices they’ve made, they share the above qualities. And who knows? You may just be looking at a community leader, a CEO, a Member of Parliament or the Prime Minister’s wife!