Leadership Lessons From The 'Saddle'

Leadership Lessons From The 'Saddle'

Mike Adams 18/08/2018 6

As I ditched the Vespa, letting it hit a wall, and rolled into the road...all I could think was that "I really hope a car isn't going to drive over me."

Not exactly a shining example of how best to master traveling on two wheels. I have improved considerably since that day. A veritable 'scooter expert', comparatively.

While scooting is fun, I fancy its not as manly a pursuit as riding a motorbike. So I set to task to learn how to ride a sports bike, a different endeavour altogether, and one that revealed surprising lessons in business leadership...


First off, the level of concentration and focus required to competently and safely handle the bike trumps riding a scooter. Bikes are faster and heavier, they can get you into trouble far more quickly, but can also get you out of trouble quickly too. They require gear selection (remembering what gear you are in also helps...) and, as importantly, they don't brake in quite the same way as a scooter.

All of this requires focus.

Sounds obvious. However, as with all skill acquisition, what was once very deliberate and conscious, starts to become automatic. Handling, braking, gear changing start to become second nature. This helps. You become more relaxed on the bike and this is good, but it poses a double edged sword...

...You start to relax your focus too. and this is not good.

In business, this happens also. As aspects of leadership and business operations become smoother, second nature, the danger is we can de-focus on the fundamental principles that made us successful/survive. We relax in the wrong areas. Seeing Around Corners

Now, in business we want automaticity to take hold. We want leadership to imbed across the org. We want operational efficiency and sound execution.


As on the bike, we can not take our focus off what is coming around the next corner. Our focus has to be laser like on both the immediate road ahead (avoiding pot holes, say) and also looking as far around the bend as possible.

We have to be able to anticipate future hazards. We have to 'see around corners'.

As the speed of change increases in our industries, this skill is even more paramount. Problems arrive quicker than they used to. Throttle Control

Just because the bike can go (very) fast, it doesn't mean that I have to drive it fast. The speed I go is dependent on two factors; firstly, the road conditions and secondly, my level of confidence and competence at speed. In essence my ability to execute.

In riding and in business, the objective is to get from A to B in a sustainable way by taking into account the market and industry conditions, ensuring that there is execution capability in the people who are driving. In other words, they can handle the speed.

Sometimes, blind speed, just going faster, is not best for the business, or its people.

'Throttle control' - a skilful leader knows when and how much to push the business. When to accelerate and when to ease off. Dashboard

You may have noticed that I don't take into account the speed limit when considering bike speed. Well, there are no speed limits where I live! So this is not a factor I focus on. This sounds a bit cavalier, but actually it has taught me an important lesson.

If I were to focus on the speedometer, I would be taking my eyes off the road to look a metric that has little relevance. It has become, in essence, a distraction. How counterintuitive!

Of course, I am not suggesting speed limits when driving are not important. The point here is that there may well be performance indicators being measured that are actually distracting to leaders...and to further continue the driving analogy, causing them to shift their focus from what is truly important on the road ahead. Pick your metrics carefully. Driving With Your Ears

Ok, last one, but fascinating nonetheless. When shifting gears on a bike, you should do so at a time when your ears tell you that a shift is required. (listening to the engine). As opposed to looking at the speedo and using that as the bearing. Why? Again, looking away from the road conditions is unnecessary. Dangerous.

As business leaders, shouldn't we too be driving our business, and shifting gears, by listening more? Listening to our people, our partners, our customers. There is a sound to a well-tuned business. It has a note. You can look at all the data in the world, but we don't hear with our eyes. We have to listen. This is important I think.

Anyway, I am off to thrash the bike!

Like, share and comment!

Mike Adams 

Keynote Speaker - Author - Investor - Living in Bali - Working globally

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  • Neil Thompson

    Don't be afraid of speed if you want to take your business to the next level.

  • Lewis Reynolds

    Good article, thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Mathew Wilkinson

    There are no bumpers or airbags to dampen a collision. Business leaders have to always look ahead.

  • Jordan Kirby

    It is essential to put proper controls in place to monitor progress.

  • Oliver Wright

    Leaders need to maintain their visibility by walking among the troops and not just be a figurehead. Their actions need to see us in order to properly follow their lead.

  • Andrew Maginn

    Brillant piece !!!!

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Mike Adams

Leadership Expert

Mike is an international keynote speaker, investor, author and advisor. He thrives in rapidly growing and innovative organisations helping them find the transform and create long term, sustainable value creation. His main goal is to drive businesses forward by building strong, long term, mutually beneficial relationships with senior leaders and assisting their career success. His specialties include management strategy and revenue optimisation. Mike holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Management from the University of Portsmouth.

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