Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Draft is Your Friend

Part 4 of "The Physics of Biking" or what I'm learning about leadership while training for a 24 hour bike ride...

Drafting is an important technique in cycling. The cyclist, as he moves through the air, produces a turbulent wake behind himself. It makes vortices. The vortices actually make a low pressure area behind the cyclist and an area of wind that moves along with the cyclist. If you're a following a cyclist and can move into the wind behind the front cyclist, you can gain an advantage. The low pressure moves you forward and the eddies push you forward. A rider tucked just 6 inches behind another rider expends almost 30 percent less energy than the front runner. Increase that distance to  24 inches and the energy savings are slashed to just about 10 percent.

Surprisingly drafting not only helps the cyclist following the leader, but the lead cyclist gains an advantage as well. The interesting thing is by filling in the lead cyclist's eddy you improve the front person's performance as well. So two people who are drafting can put out less energy than two individuals (who are not drafting) would covering the same distance in the same time. While the lead cyclist gains some advantage in this situation he still needs to expend much more energy than the cyclist who is following. Thus, successful drafting techniques require constant lead rotations among the pack.

Although I typically train by myself, most of the rides I participate in have groups in them. My first experience at drafting happened several years ago as I was "pulling" a group of about 7 bikes. As I took the lead, we came to a small rise; due to the effect of the draft as explained above, we actually were able to accelerate to about 21 mph up the hill. I only lasted a few minutes, and then it was time to let someone else take the lead, but the experience of moving forward with less effort was amazing.

How do you take advantage of the draft? Like all the posts in this series, you will make the final choice, but let me offer you my suggestion:

Lead Leaders.

Leaders who develop leaders experience an incredible multiplication effect in their organizations that can be achieved in no other way - not by increasing resources, reducing costs, analyzing systems, or doing anything else. As a leader you will go to the highest level only if you begin developing leaders instead of followers.

Becoming a leader who develops leaders requires an entirely different focus and attitude from that of a developer of followers. John Maxwell's "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" points out some of the differences:

Leaders Who Develop Followers   Leaders Who Develop Leaders
Need to be needed                    Want to be succeeded                 
Focus on weaknesses                 Focus on strengths
Develop the bottom 20%            Develop the top 20%
Hoard power                             Give power away
Spend time with others              Invest time in others
Grow by addition                       Grow by multiplication
Impact only those they              Impact people far
touch personally                        beyond their own reach

As a leader, do you ride solo most of the time or are you part of a team that together, accomplishes more? Leading a team is hard work - it takes time, energy, and resources. But when you've got the right team of leaders, with everyone pulling their weight, the results are amazing.

Leaders commit themselves to people and activities that provide explosive growth through teamwork.

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