Monday, July 24, 2006

LEADERSHIP--Determined To Win

One of the most inspirational stories you'll ever hear took place last week in the Tour De France. American cyclist Floyd Landis won the coveted "yellow jersey" after a roller-coaster week where he recovered from a disastrous mountain ride to stand on the victory podium on the Champs-Elysees yesterday. His journey to victory is a testament to determination...and a great leadership lesson.

Landis grew up in rural Pennsylvania where his Mennonite family discouraged him from becoming a cyclist by filling his days with strenuous chores. He defied them by riding his bike after dark, sometimes until 2 a.m.

He spent a few years as a member of Lance Armstrong's championship Tour De France team, until he jumped ship to become the leader of his own team. Experts told Landis he had no chance to win.

To complicate matters, Landis developed an arthritic hip so painful that he scheduled surgery immediately following this year's Tour, a procedure doctors told him could end his career.

But Landis perservered, hearing a voice that urged him to press on, even after a devastating performance on the second-to-last stage in the mountains where he lost the yellow jersey and fell to 11th place, more than eight minutes behind the leader. An insurmountable margin.

Floyd gathered his team, told them he didn't race to lose, and gave them an impossible strategy--break out of the pack at the first uphill mountain grade and literally sprint up the slope to break the will of their competition. It worked. Landis picked up 7 1/2 of the eight minutes he'd lost the day before with a performance that every Tour De France expert said was the greatest individual stage victory they'd ever seen.

Landis eventually took back the lead and won the Tour, much differently than his former boss. Lance Armstrong was the picture of preparation. Floyd Landis is the face of determination.

Having one without the other can still produce excellence, but as a leader, doesn't it seem that having both is ideal? I'll add another key element--that first, inspiration, followed with preparation, then finished with determination, is a sure formula for success in any organization.

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