Leopard Trail Lessons

Pictured is the Leopard trail we hiked at the Jabarkhet Nature Resrerve (yes leopards have been spotted there, no we did not see any).

I’m not the type of person who typically gets emotional, however the past couple of days have made me stop and appreciate the wonderful things that are happening all around me here in the Himalayas. I have seen a personal development growth within just one week that I would have never imagined to be possible. Leadership in the Himalayas has overwhelmed me with many positive emotions that I will try to articulate in these next paragraphs and as the program continues.

I’ve only been in India for a little over a week now, yet have seen changes in myself and in my own personal leadership style that I am sure will impact how I live the rest of my life and lead others. I would say that the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) theories have impacted me the most throughout the Leadership in the Himalayas program. The four key NOLS theories are as follows: designated leader, active follower, peer leader, and self leader. Being a designated leader is self-explanatory and is not a role I will be undertaking during the ten day trek. Therefore I will start by elaborating on active followership. Active followership means supporting and following the designated leader and actively participating in decision making. An example of this is when our designated leader asks us frequent questions such as ‘how are you feeling?’ or ‘is this making sense to you?’ By providing my own feedback and input, I am doing good for the group overall. Being an active follower could manifest itself in many ways including; actively listening, actively providing output, and actively participating in group activities.

Another theory NOLS discusses is the idea of peer leadership. Peer leadership is all about working with other group members to support the group’s goals. A specific way I observed peer leadership taking place was when we went on our all day hike with our backpacks (9:30am-4pm) and observing everyone (including myself) coordinate drinking water. For instance I would ask Emma to remove my Camelback bottle and put it back in my side pocket when I was finished (and vice versa). Additionally, I observed peer leadership when me and the six other students were asked to complete a task together outside. Our task was to stay within a designated square box (defined by a rope) and stomp our feet on the square numbers sequentially WITHOUT communicating to one another. We were given ten minutes to deliberate as a group. After the ten minutes was up, we went straight into the activity and finished in 37 seconds (we had predicted a minute to complete)! Elated, our leader who has conducted the same activity for years says this was the quickest and most efficient he had ever seen a group complete this task. This was a huge success on behalf of our group (and a huge confidence boost before embarking on our 10 day trek). I witnessed a lot of peer leadership during this activity which definitely contributed to its success.

Lastly, NOLS also mentions the theory of self-leadership. Self-leadership is all about taking responsibility for one’s self and paying attention to one’s own well being in order to be a more productive member of the group. It’s so much more than being ‘selfish’ per say, but rather satisfying your own needs so you are not a liability to everyone else around you. For example if you are experiencing a pain from a blister in your foot, it is best to stop and alert the group so you are able to fix it before it worsens.

The possibilities and applications of this specific leadership framework are endless. I’m super pumped to get out there in two days for our 10 day trek as a group and apply all of this knowledge to have a successful and happy hike J