Leadership is like riding a bicycle

Learning to Ride a BicycleI admit it. I fell victim to the “Downton Abbey” craze. I watched an episode one night out of curiosity. The next thing I knew, I had found Seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon Prime and we watched at least 2 episodes a night for the next 2 weeks until we had seen them all. Then we went to start watching Season 3 – only this time it wasn’t free on Amazon Prime. You know you are hooked when you hit the “Buy with 1-Click” button and you shell out the money for the entire 3rd season without even thinking about what it cost. But, I suppose all of that is a subject for another time.

I found the story compelling and the dialog incredible. The characters were fascinating and complex. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.

But I was captivated by a sentence uttered by a relatively minor character in the last episode of season 3. His name is Shrimpie and he is a husband caught in a loveless marriage and he is the father of a young woman who is rebelling against her parents and society in general. I am paraphrasing a quote from that episode:

“What I want is for her [his daughter] to know that family can be a loving thing. Love is like riding a bicycle or speaking French. If you don’t learn it young, it’s hard to get the trick of it later.”

I am taking this in a direction that you would expect and I am going to modify the quote to suit my purpose. What if we exchanged the word “love” for “leadership” in the middle sentence of the quote? How apropos is that? I think it is incredibly apropos and worthy of the edit.

Leadership is like riding a bicycle or speaking French. If you don’t learn it young, it’s hard to get the trick of it later.”

One of the most memorable events of my childhood was when we taught my grandmother to ride a bicycle. I was in elementary school at the time and we lived in a house that had a backyard that opened into the huge playground of the school that I attended. The area was perfect. All we needed to do was help her find her balance and then give a little push. It should work, right? Well, not so much. Apparently a 50-something year-old woman is not as willing to just let go and peddle with reckless abandon like I was. She wobbled and struggled and, only after a great deal of assistance and running alongside to steady the bicycle was Granny able to make it for a very short distance.

No one taught her to ride as a child. And it was hard to get the hang of it later.

Dads, are you teaching your children to be leaders in the small things today? Are you modeling leadership? Are you providing small opportunities with “training wheels” for your kids to experience leadership in a safe environment? The world will try to get them to follow the easy path. But that one rarely takes you to where you need to be.

This is just something to consider on Fatherhood Friday.


Photo credit: dadblunders / Foter.com / CC BY


Photo credit: Pörrö / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

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