Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working with a few mates on some new leadership materials for our camping programs.  It’s been a very febrile environment with lots of ideas bouncing around and we’ve been hungry to look at the leadership resources of others, using them as a springboard for the development of our own ideas and materials (which we want to be uniquely Australian). 

Over the last few days we started discussing some of the materials I bought home from Canada, including “Leader to Leadership” by John McAuley, CEO of Muskoka Woods.  This book lists the attributes of leaders as people who are raised up for time of change to lead with character, cadence and competence.  God chose David his servant and David led them (cadence) with integrity of heart (character) and skilful hands (competence).

Cadence is described as “getting on God’s page” and perhaps because of all of those three terms it is the least used in leadership materials, and the most unusual, the term planted a seed in at least two of us on this journey.  So when we next caught up we found that we’d both developed an unexpected tangent off “cadence” – admittedly two very different directions as though both our brains had hit the concept of cadence and sparked off into completely different directions that will hopefully be complementary when we pull it all together.  Such is the joy of the brainstorming process – it’s the fun part.  Just pity us when we have to refine everything.

Here’s my spin-off, and of course it involves sport.

One of my weekend joys is taking my Ridley bicycle out of the shed and swooping around the mountain roads here at Mapleton.  I’m strictly a weekend cyclist with lots of lead in the saddle bags, but that didn’t stop me celebrating Australia’s recent success at the Tour de France, where Cadel Evans showed immense determination and leadership of his team to finally break through after being runner-up twice.

My beloved Ridley

Cadence is a term that features prominently in professional cycling parlance.  The work required to move a bike down the road is measured in watts. To define it very simply,Watts= Force x Cadence, or how hard you press on the pedals multiplied by the number of times per minute you apply this force.

There’s a rich vein of cycling analogy to bring to the issue of leadership cadence:

Push and pull:

As kids most of us get put on a bike with training wheels and the sum total of our instruction is to get us to eventually balance on two wheels whereby we’re independent and a “competent bike rider”.  And our childhood bikes had platform pedals so all most of us have ever known on a bike is to push down with force, over and over.

If you’re an adult bike rider with a reasonable bike (in which case you’ve spent thousands without even knowing how) and you want to ride reasonable distances then you’ll have pedals that accommodate clip-ins.  Cleats at the bottom of your riding shoes lock you onto the pedals and can be devilishly difficult to get out (keep that in mind motorists when you try and run us off the road). 

The serious pedal stroke is an equal measure of push and pull, the ankles twisting violently at the end of the downstroke so that the foot coming up is also dragging the pedal with it (hence the need to be secured to the pedal). 

This takes time to learn and is often a revisionary process out of old childhood habits.  It also leads to a far more efficient and powerful pedal stroke with a proper continuing cadence, that word again.  What I draw from this:

  • Leadership is learned, and often means revising our childhood habits and re-thinking formative worldviews.
  • Often leadership is equal measure push and pull.  Pulling people with our inspiration and energy, pushing through obstacles to success.  This is true cadence, when there is both push and pull, though if the leader finds they’re pushing people and pulling barriers with them it might be time for some contemplation. 

Okay, and I’ve been so verbose, I now think there’s a few installments in this as a series.  Standby for RPM and “When the road heads uphill”. 

Postscript:  If John McAuley ever reads this my apologies if it seems we’re shanghaiing off all your hard work.  We promise our finished product will be very Australian and distinct, and it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants that we might see further.  

Postscript II:  Secretly I think the tangent my mate has come up with on cadence is much better than mine.  But if I tell him that it will go to his head.


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