It is an athletic event of unparalleled toughness. Imagine cycling from London to beyond Birmingham every day for three weeks and there being a huge mountain range in between and keeping up an average speed of 30 mph plus. The mere thought of doing this would make even most of us avid `rouleurs` too exhausted even to consider it.
Bradley Wiggins, this year’s winner, is the product of a broken home - left at two years old by a drug-addled, alcoholic father and a North London council-estate upbringing. Perhaps no surprise, then, that he’s also been an active campaigner against the doping that has so often marred his sport and tarnished the reputation of other winners of the coveted `Maillot Jaune` - the winner’s yellow jersey. He is a true champion and an example to all that an under-privileged upbringing should not be an excuse for a life of anti-social behaviour or serial failure secure in the knowledge that it can forgiven endlessly because of a` bad start in life`.
Free of the amateur dramatics, false emotion and gush that pervades so much of modern-day public life, Wiggins is also a product not only of his own determination, but of a series of a small number people that have believed in him more than, at many times, he has believed in himself. This acceptance of that to be the best you don’t have to be omnipotent and are, in part, the product of past and current endeavours of others tells us a lot not just about Wiggins but about the trust that is essential in any modern high performance, and especially entrepreneurial, business. It’s small, tightly knit teams with a clear and common aim that win. And as soon as your business stops being just you, make no mistake, you are a team.
In this respect the stand-out feature of this years’ Tour has been the relationship between Wiggins and Chris Froome, his Team Sky teammate. A slight rider brought up in Africa, Froome is a breath-taking and seemingly inexhaustible young talent who could have won many stages on the tour, even the tour itself, but has chosen to support and encourage Wiggins over every kilometre and relegate himself top second place overall.
Meanwhile another Team Sky member, World Road Race Champion and BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011, Mark Cavendish too relegated himself to the role of `super domestique` encouraging and ferrying supplies back and forth to Froome and Wiggins over the weeks further ensuring Wiggins retained the yellow jersey. Nevertheless the `Manx Missile` having been carefully manoeuvred into position by Wiggins et al was still able to win two stages with sprint finishes before rocketing first across the finish line in the Champs Elysees to claim a fourth consecutive final stage victory, marking an historic achievement for Team Sky and UK plc.
Each selflessly when the time came `took one for the team` in the certain knowledge that their teammates integrity would ensure that the favour would be repaid in the future, talent would be allowed to shine and everyone would eventually be a winner.
It’s symptomatic of the often unspoken trust that exists between winners that they will `do the right thing` when the time comes – however long it takes. That’s a corporate culture, to use business school jargon, where values are clearly aligned and success breeds success into the future. No amount of rule-making or HR box ticking, however well- intentioned, can either engender or promote this powerful bond. It comes from leadership by example, management by walking the talk, careful selection of individuals and a core belief that no one is bigger or better than the team; even if the whole thing was your idea in the first place.
Why? Because speak to any young, ambitious person in candour about their lives and the one thing they will tell you they want from their job is to be inspired and to learn and if they get that they will give their all. They’ll also tell you that they don’t really think they work for anyone but themselves. This means that as an entrepreneurial leader you can’t rest on your laurels, you have to constantly strive to improve and be better.
In a rapidly changing world with new skills and techniques to learn constantly there is no place for complacency, ego flexing or even the politics of self-preservation. As a leader you have to examine your motivations, keep leading and understand whether you founded the firm or not. It’s only with the permission of those that you lead that you continue to do so too.
A version of this article appeared recently on chameleonpr.com