I have spent two weeks this summer cycling from the north of Vietnam to Hoi Chi Minh City in the south – a long and potentially arduous journey, made more difficult with temperatures exceeding 350C on some days. That said, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in terms of personal and team resilience, commitment and achievement, all made possible by the incredible leadership of our group leader. I witnessed all aspects of what makes a great leader unfold over the fortnight all of which can be applied to leadership in all we do.
Clarity of Purpose
During our welcome meeting, we were re-introduced to the values of the cycling company and indeed, that of the leader. Why responsible travel was fundamental to our holiday choice, why getting to know the country, it’s culture, history, language was key to our experience and, why enjoyment, fulfilment and achievement was his and our intention. There was absolute clarity in what would be expected from us on a daily basis and an unshakeable belief that all were physically capable of the cycling journey ahead.
The group members were from Europe, US, Australia, New Zealand with an age range of 18-67, all from diverse backgrounds. Some had experienced long bike rides while for others, it was their first; some were focussed on their personal goals while others were ‘just doing it’; some were anxious about their fitness levels while others tackled each day with an awe inspiring confidence. Despite these differences, there was a commitment to a common goal – all were to complete each day with a sense of pride in ourselves and in our team. There was a collaborative spirt fostered by our leader. He created a supportive camaraderie regardless of difference – ‘high fiving’became routine at the end of each day.
Positivity and Reality
Everyone can do this!The leader’s motto regularly heard over breakfast, during our morning briefings, as we mounted our bikes. Always accompanied by the reality of the day – the distance, the terrain, the gradient, the beauty of the landscape, the breaks. We knew exactly what was ahead of us with very few surprises. His experience of the journey fostered a sense of trust and assurance in the team.
Fear and Laughter
Cycling into and out of busy Vietnamese cities was something we just could not imagine – it looked terrifying. The number of possible calamities was too great to count. Our leader’s calm and protective approach soon diminished these fears, so much so, we often found the funny side, screeching hysterically as hundreds of mopeds came towards us. We laughed a lot – even climbing an unrelenting 10km mountain pass, gradient of 8-10%, we laughed. We found humour in extreme situations, each other, with
him and with people we met along the way. The good natured group dynamic enabled us to feel comfortable in laughing at ourselves and each other.
We made it! The sense of achievement was incredible both from an individual and team perspective. As well as organising moments to celebrate, our leader ensured we were able to have opportunities to reflect and share our highs and lows with each other. He was also incredibly keen to hear what he could do better on his future trips. This was one question where we had little to say – he was the best leader we could have possibly hoped for. He made our trip and for that we thank him. As to us……we’re planning to go away together next year – that’s team spirit!