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NEWS | Jan. 23, 2013

Pace line riding: A lesson in leadership, mentoring and teamwork

By Col. Dennis Dabney 437th Maintenance Group commander

I went bicycle riding last weekend and noticed a team of riders passing on the other side of the road in a pace line. This tight, wheel-to-wheel formation allows riders to slice through the wind while working together to cover the miles. What may appear perilous to the untrained eye is actually very efficient and effective.

The ride begins with an experienced master cyclist, familiar with the route and with thousands of miles in their legs, in the lead. The leader is responsible for setting a challenging pace, warning other riders of hazards and signaling turns. The riders following closely behind mimic the leaders' gear selection, pedal cadence and follow him as he swerves around potholes, storm grates and loose gravel on the road. At some point, the pace line leader pulls off and the next rider in line moves up. Each rider takes their turn or "pull" at the front leading the team. At the end of the day, many miles are covered and no rider is left behind.

Riding in such close formation requires a great deal of leadership, trust and communication. The team dynamics of pace line riding translates well to leadership and professional development.

If you are a supervisor, are you truly leading the team? Are you challenging your team to be better, teaching them all you know and guiding them around the hazards and typical pitfalls of life? If you were to take leave, deploy or retire, would the "riders" behind you know what to do during their turn at the front leading the rest of the team? If you are following behind in the pace line, are you listening to your leadership? Are you heeding the warnings and making responsible choices to avoid the potholes and loose gravel of life?

Pace line riding makes everyone safer, more capable and more efficient by working together as a team. Teamwork such as that exhibited in a pace line can help you and your unit cover many more miles, develop into strong leaders and overcome challenges ... together.