How to Lead a Team in Creating Something Memorable
“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”
“With upright heart, he shepherded them and guided them with his skilful hand.” — Ps 78:72
About three weeks ago, I participated in a memorable event in Dubai. Imagine the Mayor of New York City closing off Fifth Avenue for six hours. Or Oxford Street in London closed off for five hours. That is what happened on 6 November on Sheik Zayed Road in Dubai.
From kids with training wheels to adults with body-hugging kits, carbon fibre bikes took over the busiest road in Dubai for about six hours of cycling. Music was blasting from all directions, camera lights flashing, and drones flying. It was a cycling carnival — individuals, families and groups all playing for a TV moment. I was no exception.
Like a toddler released from grounding, I had my “no hands” stunt, cycling in sync with the music beats with my hands in the air. But that did not get me my moment of fame, maybe because I did not have a flashy kit. Luckily, I wore the red and black team top of the DXB Riders group. The DXB Riders stole the headlines.
Sheik Zayed Road looked like a sea after sharks devoured a school of seals. DXB riders in all manner of bikes filled the seven lanes breadth going back 20 or more rows back. The press could not resist; other cyclists stopped to get clicks in, and onlookers from tens of storeys up zoomed in to capture the spectacle.
I realised that if we are talking about the DXB riders showing at the 2022 Dubai Ride three weeks later, there must be something to learn from how the group did it.
Standing out from a crowd of almost 35,000 cyclists to form a sea of red on the famous Sheik Zayed Road resulted from impeccable planning, teamwork and, most of all, exceptional leadership. It captures the essence of John C Maxwell’s postulation about leadership.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” – John C Maxwell
The chairman of DXB riders’ leadership style delivered that memorable ride planned down to the T. Immediately after the ride in 2021, he talked about how amazing it would be for the DXB Riders to command the breadth of the road in the 2022 ride. There he planted the seed. We had about 450 kits printed and shipped from India. Volunteers distributed to members. Planning of meeting points and meeting times. All went delightfully according to plan from seamless coordination of activities.
While the event was memorable because it was:
- Simple: there were no technical rules, no racing and no medals. Riders only had to bring their bikes, have their helmets and ride.
- Visually appealing: the pictures were stunning.
- Emotional: Riders of all ages were happy to roll their wheels on the road.
The following five principles from my favourite John C Maxwell’s books on leadership explain how the DXB Riders chairman led the group to achieve such an epic ride.
1. Take a keen interest in developing your team.
Everyone turned out for the occasion because they believed the leader in interested in their development.
“Good leadership isn’t about advancing yourself. It’s about advancing your team.”
2. Be genuinely interested in the welfare and well-being of your team.
The founder and chairman of DXB Riders ensure the group engages in other social activities than cycling. We celebrate birthdays, newborn babies and other personal achievements. The team shows up because of the family bond created from genuine care from the top.
“When you like people and treat them like individuals who have value, you begin to develop influence with them. You develop trust.”
3. Empower your team.
Someone else other than the chairman had all the logistical support to distribute the team jerseys. And someone else facilitate team meetings and planning activities. Team members had all they needed to execute their assigned roles.
“A leader is great not because of his or her power, but because of his or her ability to empower others.”
4. Lead by example.
At 2 AM the chairman was at the starting point for an event starting at 4 AM. First to arrive, last to leave, making sure everyone is okay.
“To lead any way other than by example, we send a fuzzy picture of leadership to others.
5. Lead with confidence
“We can do this.” “Let’s do this.” The leader of the group communicates clearly and confidently in a way that inspires action in the group. He was so confident that the group can pull off the huge ride that everyone bought into the idea.
“When the leader lacks confidence, the followers lack commitment.”
We are all leaders whether we know it, believe it or accept it. If you are a parent, you are a leader.
“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” — Peter Drucker
If at any time you have had someone follow your lead, your idea or instruction, you are a leader. Even if no one follows you, you follow yourself. And I believe we must be good at leading ourselves before leading others successfully.
And if you want to lead yourself, a team or a group in creating something memorable, try practising the above five leadership principles.
Two (2) Book recommendations
Here are two of my favourite John C Maxwell books on leadership. I hope they inspire you and me to lead and create something memorable.
a) The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
Laws govern most things in life — the law of gravity, the law of sowing and reaping and there is the law of diminishing returns. Leadership is no exception. John C Maxwell expertly reveals his over three decades of leadership experience in these 21 leadership laws.
b) The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximise Your Potential
Do people follow you because they have to? Or do they follow you because of who you are and what you represent?
Leadership is not your job grade, title or level. But, as John C Maxwell puts it, your position is only the first level. This book shows the five Ps of leadership levels from position to pinnacle.
Three (3) Citations
While on leadership, who best to cite than arguably the best subject matter expert and thought-leader of our time — John C Maxwell.
“If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it — young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous — is changed by it.”
“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”
“Unless you want to carry the whole load yourself, you need to be developing leaders.”