I remember listening to a friend describe the challenge of teaching his kids to ride bikes. It was a wobbly adventure. What feels like second nature to an adult can be a major hurdle for a child. For little ones, roaming the neighborhood on two wheels requires more than just hope. They need instruction from someone with far more handlebar hours.
Learning to ride accident-free doesn’t happen by accident. When you are learning to ride a bike, a good teacher is important. With practice and proper guidance, kids eventually acquire the skills and find the confidence they need to have fun and avoid skinning their knees. Learning to lead others well is just like teaching your child to ride a bike. Good coaches, teachers, and bosses understand how to get everyone around them stable and successful. Here are 3 things effective leaders do.
Crashes are part of learning to ride a bike. Teachers should expect a few falls because problems arise from inexperience. Kids learning to ride—and professionals learning to succeed—need a guide. Guidance happens when someone more knowledgeable shares helpful tips and tricks. Parents teach kids how to hold the handlebars and sit upright to stay more balanced. We hold the seats of our kids’ bikes. Effective leaders guide well. Effective leaders look for eager learners.Effective leaders look for eager learners.
Guiding someone when you see him or her in need of direction shows you’re invested in his or her success. Make useful suggestions based on your experiences, explain things clearly, and don’t be afraid to overcommunicate. Leadership is embracing the basic points of development like you would when helping a child steer.
As much as my friend worried about his son falling off the bike, he knew a time would come when he would need to let go of that bicycle seat. His goal of seeing his child ride on his own had to outweigh the desire to guard him or be in control. Holding on too long holds the rider back from growth.
But letting kids grow doesn’t mean letting them go completely. They aren’t ready at this stage to be totally free. So my friend jogged behind at arm’s length as his son pedaled, still close enough to intervene if the ride got wobbly. Loosening his grip was a positive move.
This is how kids grow.
The same goes for business and team leadership. Encourage people who look up to you and be prepared to give feedback when asked. Some grow fast. Some grow slowly. Don’t crowd your mentees too much. Allow them to “feel the pedals” while putting in motion the new skills they acquired under your guidance. It may look shaky at first, but balance requires growth.
After observing his son’s steady improvement, my friend backed away. He stopped jogging and stood in the yard to watch. He applied his dad’s lessons and the young cyclist sped off with confidence. You have the same opportunity as a leader.
When you decide to let mentees go, they start to gain experience. Future success depends on this confidence-building step. You gave them guidance, you watched them grow, and now it’s time to let them go out on their own. This does not mean they will never fail. Sometimes, there are rocks in the road. But they should fall less often now that your leadership put them on a firm foundation.
The “go” phase of leadership is about sharing in the rider’s success. This is easy to enjoy if you have led well.
Sound off: How can you practice guiding, growing, and going with the people around you?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think makes a good leader?”