The Caring Leader and the Tour de France

This weekend is the start of the 100th running of the Tour de France. I have always been a fan of the race partly because of the beautiful course locations but mostly because of the incredible physical test the cyclists must endure over three grueling weeks.

Last year before the Tour de France I wrote about the role of the “domestique” on a cycling team and the selfless act of serving for the gain of others.

In that post, we talked about how important it is for leaders to mirror a few of the serving behaviors of the domestique by reducing resistance, providing a secure and trusting environment, and by nourishing and strengthening their people.

For this year, let’s look at another role on a cycling team called the “soigneur.” The French word soigneur means “one who provides care” and, while never getting on a bike or being in the spotlight, they too are a crucial part of the team.

Being the soigneur on a professional cycling team is not an easy task. In fact, USA Today ranks it #9 on the 10 Worst Jobs in Sports list. You can get an idea of  the life of a soigneur by reading the entire article but a quote from a soigneur says it best:

“There’s so much more than giving a massage after the race. We’re valets, cooks, washers, drivers, wound cleaners, psychiatrists and confessors. It is long hours, hard days, tough conditions and a wonderful way of life.”

The soigneur knows what their riders need to perform at their best, recover from a long day of racing, and heal from crash wounds.

The same can be said for leaders. Their responsibility lies in providing an environment for their people to do amazing things everyday. That is, leaders being human for other humans.

Now, caring does not mean codling. Caring means doing the thing necessary to maintain health and well-being. I’m sure a rider does not feel coddled when gravel needs to be cleaned from a wound but it is necessary for proper healing. Proper care of the people in your organization means doing the things necessary so natural growth, healing, and development can occur.

So, how can leaders begin to care for the people on their team? Here are a few thoughts:

Know your people. Every person has unique needs and you will not be able to care for someone without knowing them. Take a minute and do a quick exercise. In your mind, go through the inventory of every person who reports to you. How well do you know them? I mean, really know them. What makes them tick? What are they passionate about outside of work? Are there any life events they are dealing with such as weddings, funerals, or a kid heading off to college?

Be present. It will take time to learn about people and for people to freely share of themselves. If you have never reached out before it may be a shock to them and they may resist. Don’t give up…be present, listen and stay engaged.

Seek out healing opportunities. When wounds emerge in the workplace, play an active role in the healing process. Without this, organizational scar tissue will emerge and the work to release this will be many times harder the longer you wait. You can read more about organizational wounding, healing, and scar tissue here.

By combining what we have learned about the serving role of the “domestique” and the caring role of the “soigneur”, the transformational leadership our organizations need will begin to emerge.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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