The greatest bicycle race in the world is happening this month. Check it out. It is on television every day, nearly all day. It’s the big one—the Tour de France—and it consists of 21 stages over a 23-day period, covering 2,200 miles. It’s been happening for over 100 years.
In our house, it’s just called “The Tour.” My wife rolls her eyes every time I tune in because she knows that it will occupy a couple hours of my time each day throughout the entire month of July.
Look at the picture above. Who is winning the race? You might think it is the person in front, like most races. Nope, not this race.
The leader of the Tour de France is the guy in the yellow jersey. The cyclist who has completed the previous stages of the race in the least amount of time is required to wear the yellow jersey. As you can imagine, this jersey is the most sought after jersey in all of cycle racing.
Why? The yellow jersey, or the maillot jaune in French, was first awarded in 1919 to make the race leader stand out, and the tradition still continues today.
During The Tour, everybody’s watching the guy in the yellow jersey: his teammates, his competition, and the spectators. They watch what he eats and what he drinks. They watch who rides around him. They listen to what he says and what he doesn’t say, and they carefully watch and listen to his teammates as well.
Why Watch and Listen?
Everybody wants to know the strategy of the guy in the yellow jersey. They are trying to figure out what he will do next. Everybody wants to know when he’s going to make a break for it, when he will push the pace or just ride along in the pack.
And that’s not all. They look at the face of the guy in the yellow jersey when he’s climbing the highest peaks. They’re looking at his eyes and his legs, and they’re looking at how much sweat is coming off his body. His competitors are trying to figure out when they can make a move, and his teammates are watching for ways they can help him. They’re all watching and assessing the guy in the yellow jersey, and they are all planning their next moves based on what he’s doing.
You see, he is leading them in more ways than just this race.
What Color Are You Wearing?
That’s exactly what is like to be a leader today. You’re the person in the yellow jersey. Everybody’s watching you: the people that work for you, the people that you work for, the people who work around you, your peers, your competitors and your customers.
They are all watching you through each of your stages, too: when you arrive in the morning, when you talk on the phone or to your employees in the hallway, when you send that email, or go out in the plant or just walk through the office.
They’re watching your face and your body language when you are under stress and when you’re not. They’re listening to everything you say and don’t say. They’re watching what you eat, drink and do, and they’re watching whose company you keep while you are doing it. They carefully watch and listen to your teammates as well.
Everybody is trying to figure out what you think and what you will do next. You are leading them all in more ways than you might think, and not only with your formal authority through the chain of command.
You’re the One with the Yellow Jersey