Rappelling with Leadership

Over the past two days we have switched gears from Wilderness First Aid and CPR and into leadership theories and activities. Being a business student and having taken several classes that discuss leadership, I felt a little more confident going into this part of the program. However, I didn’t want to make assumptions and approached the activities with a humble attitude and a student perspective.

One activity in particular stood out to me today. The activity we performed was as follows: All seven of us stood in a circle and interlocked hands and had a four foot piece of material that circled around the arms between two people. Before anything else, we were asked to come to a group consensus as to how long it would take us to transfer the piece of material around the whole circle. My initial reaction was ‘7 minutes’, most of the other group members said ‘3 minutes’ or ‘2 minutes’. I told myself the lowest I was willing to go was three minutes. So there is was, ‘3 minutes’ we replied to the instructor.

After a bit of struggle and lots of communication, our final time ended up being 1:37! I was completely shocked. During the debrief that followed, we realized that one individual in our group kept vying for a lower time. However, she did not speak up or provide justified reasoning as to why she thought what she thought. From this activity I learned that leaders need to be more conscientious and actively listen to the thoughts and concerns of everybody in the group. Had we conducted a thorough brainstorming session prior to starting the activity (listening to everyone in the group), we would have been able to accurately predict the time it took to complete the activity.

My perspective of leadership has shifted over the last two days. After going through activities similar to the one described above, I’ve come to value the importance of taking the time to listen to everybody in the group. This could look like: asking every individual what their thoughts are, listening to said individual, and asking the reasoning behind what they are thinking.  Prior to today I thought of leadership as more of a one sided transaction, maybe even a non-negotiable one. Leadership is much more than influencing others, but rather having others influence you.

A huge component of leadership is being able to effectively teach and inspire others to do something. A great example of this was today whenever we went rappelling on a wall (pictured). Our leader did an excellent job at accurately describing the position our bodies were to be in. Every step of the way, I was provided specific and encouraging feedback as to how to properly rappel for the first time. Not only that, but the leader also rappelled himself down the wall and showed us what NOT to do (which was super helpful to me).

Will a leader be perfect if he or she makes the decision to listen to his or her followers? No. All great leaders make mistakes. However, it is important to note that when a leader makes a mistake they do not get a ‘free pass’ to continue on as if nothing happened. The leader should recognize the mistake in front of the followers and make a conscious effort to prevent if from happening again. Looking ahead, I hope to grow more in these areas as I develop my own personal leadership style.