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May 2024
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Leadership Lessons From the Tour de France

By Matt Kinsey, DTM

Matt Kinsey smiling

I have been an amateur cyclist for more than 40 years. One of my favorite times of the year is July, when the famous Tour de France bicycle race occurs.

Despite the accolades given to the team leader, the Tour de France is a team sport. Every winner is supported by a team of fellow cyclists who have worked together to deliver victory. I have learned a lot of leadership lessons as a cyclist, and by watching the Tour de France.

One of those lessons is the role of the team compared to the role of the leader. If you’ve ever taken a management class, you may have heard that the role of the manager is to remove obstacles from the team members, so they can accomplish the mission. There is a lot of truth in this statement. However, cyclists look at leadership a little differently.

On a cycling team, the role of the team is to protect the leader. The role of the leader is to protect the mission.

On a cycling team, the role of the team is to protect the leader. The role of the leader is to protect the mission. If you watch the Tour de France, you will notice that the team leaders are rarely in front. Most of the time, they are behind their teammates. The team is breaking the wind, protecting the leader from fellow cyclists, and responding to breakaway attacks on the road—based on the instructions from the team leader.

The team leader’s role is to protect the mission for the day, and for the overall race. They are the ones who decide which breakaway attacks need to be followed. They are the ones who adjust the plans based on what is happening during the race.

What would that look like in Toastmasters? It might look like team members staying focused on accomplishing their tasks so the team leader can stay focused on the mission. It might look like team leaders truly empowering teams to accomplish their roles without micromanagement. Perhaps it might look like everyone providing positive support to one another in the same tone and manner as we provide speech evaluations.

What about you and your team? How are you operating? Are you removing obstacles from your team’s path? Are you empowering them to accomplish their job without micromanaging them? Are you providing positive and supportive feedback to each other?

I encourage you to explore this concept in your team. If you do, you may find some great opportunities to work together even more effectively than you do today.

Matt Kinsey, DTM

International President


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