Having read about a variety of leadership theories priors to coming to India for this program, I had a pretty reformed understanding about the various forms leadership can take. Admittedly, the majority of these theories were new to me, and I had never seen them in practice. The trekking experience provided an opportunity to put some of these concepts into practice and observe the use of them by the designated leaders that were a part of our team.
One of the most substantial ways my understand of leadership has changed since taking this course has been coming to the realization that a leader can lead from a humble position. Reading about Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership Theory first introduced this concept to me. The notion that a leader can be humble yet extremely effective in managing a team was reinforced during the trek through my observation of the group of porters that accompanied us.
The porters served as the ultimate guides all throughout the trip. They knew the trail better than anyone and we’re responsible for deciding whether or not it was safe for our group to proceed at times. With this being a year of record snowfall in the Himalayas, the trial was often covered in snow and ice at the higher altitudes. Our porters, specifically Gunga and Gyan, scouted the trail miles ahead of us to ensure conditions s would be within our range of ability. They were also critical in cutting steps into the snowy path with their ice axes. Both of these actions among other examples I could mention required a sacrifice from the porters in order to see their followers up for success. In this way, the porters were a perfect example of servant leaders. They were eager to assist at all times, whether it was preparing and serving us meals or guiding us along the trail. While they held the ultimate authority in many ways, they humbly offered their services to us to a remarkable extent.
As I continue to develop my own personal leadership style, I think there are several things I can do to refrain from stagnating in my progress:
1) Encourage people to make contributions
As a leader, it will be important to let my team members know that their ideas are welcome. When a team lease is approachable, it fosters an environment of openness and creativity. Looking to team members for feedback and inspiration and having opportunities to hear from a variety of perspectives will strengthen the team.
2) Be a good listener
Not only should a leader welcome input from others, but they should genuinely consider it. Effective leaders are able to make their team feel valued and heard.
3) Keep trying new things
Finding one’s own leadership philosophy is a continuous process. If at first one method does not prove to be effective, I should always remain open to trying another! It will be beneficial to pay attention to things that have been effective in the past and always be in the lookout for new ways to inspire, motivate and reward group members.