Leadership & Memory, Like Riding a Bike

Brandy Damron

Leadership & Memory, Like Riding a Bike

What does a good memory have to do with Leadership? And how can you use your memory to make you a better leader?

May is National Bike Month. Started by the League of American Bicyclists, it is meant to promote the benefits of riding bikes, and encourage more people to ride. There are many benefits to bicycling, including helping the environment, enjoying nature, and plus it’s a great workout for your heart and muscles. In honor of National Bike Month, we would like to share an activity that gives your memory a workout.

Ask your group to get out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil (or you can pass out note cards or use this activity sheet). Set a timer for 90 seconds, and ask your group to draw a bicycle from memory. When the 90 seconds are up ask them to imagine that the bike they drew was real. Would it be rideable? Would it roll? Are there any flaws?

Now ask them to think about what they noticed when they were drawing it. How did they know what to draw? Did they picture a bicycle in their mind? What if they had never seen a bicycle before? What if they had only seen a bicycle once? Twice? What does this activity show us about learning and memory?

You could also discuss how many times you need to see something before it is committed to memory. While there isn’t a magic number, we know it takes repeated exposure in order to remember something. The first time we learn or see something it’s often only stored in the short term memory. And since it’s short term, unless the information is revisited it may not get committed to the long term memory. If you don’t use it, you could lose it.

And it’s not just about repeated exposure, it’s also about the time between the exposures. Spacing the intervals out helps your brain to reinforce those connections, and to practice active recall. The more that you engage with that information over time, your brain with reinforce those connections, making it more likely that you will recall that information later when you need it.

At ULEAD, we are a leadership development organization. In our programming we often use activities that demonstrate the importance of memory and learning. But what does memory have to do with leadership? Here are just a few leadership skills that are affected by memory:

  • Life-long Learning: Good leaders are constantly learning and evolving. They are able to use their knowledge gathered from past experiences, education, and interactions to make better decisions in the future. They actively engage in learning new information, and looking for connections and patterns within their range of knowledge.
  • Building Relationships: Remembering people’s names, interests, and past conversations helps leaders build stronger relationships with their team members. This fosters trust, loyalty, and a more positive work environment.
  • Decision Making: Leaders use their past experiences along with other relevant information, to make decisions. They need to be able to draw upon their range of knowledge and experiences in a timely way to make decisions, set goals, and to help others do the same.
  • Self-Awareness: By recalling our past successes and failures, we are able to examine the emotions and consequences of those experiences and use that to determine what it important to us, and what our personal values are.
  • Adaptibility: Leaders learn from past mistakes, and are able to identify patterns that they have seen in the past in order to adapt to changing circumstances.

We are not saying that your memory needs to be perfect. Everyone’s different and brings different gifts and knowledge to the table. But think about the saying, “It’s like riding a bike.” Once you learn how to ride a bike, it’s easy, and you don’t forget how. But did you ride the first time you got on a bike? Probably not. It probably took many tries over a period of time.

So, go ride a bike.

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Brandy Damron

Brandy attended Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University while working full time and raising a family. She enjoys making lists, long walks on the beach, and is a 10-key ninja.

All stories by : Brandy Damron
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