Leadership Lessons On The Way From The Waterfall

This past weekend, I found myself on a beautiful hike in the NC mountains headed for a waterfall that I have hiked to at least 100 times.   It is a relatively easy 2 mile hike followed by a challenging rock ascent of about 600 feet.  This particular weekend I was accompanied by three teenagers and four little boys under the age of 10.  On the way back to the cabin, I was able to reflect on several things that made this trip a success and that will ultimately make any journey a success.

  1. When you are in front, you are the leader whether you want to be or not.  Assess risks, make decisions, and keep moving because the people behind you are always frustrated and often stuck until you do. Too many journeys fail to finish simply due to paralysis by analysis.
  2. The easiest way up may not be the easiest way down.  Don’t be afraid to choose a different path. No two situations are ever exactly the same, so no two solutions should be either.
  3. If you carry the drinks and snacks, others will generally choose to stick by you or at least check in with you often.  Make sure those around you know what you can do for them during any journey.
  4. If you think the only place to stop and enjoy the view is at the top, then you have missed the point.  Great leaders make the journey as interesting as the destination.
  5. Everyone knows that wet rocks are slippery, yet there is always someone who falls.  No one needs you to state the obvious.  Instead lift people up regardless of why they stumble.  You will feel better and so will they.
  6. When you tell someone you will catch them, that you will grab their hand, or that you have their back – really mean it or don’t say it at all.  The consequences are painful.
  7. Wet shoes at the end of the trail mean that you probably took some risks along the way.  No broken bones tell you that they were probably prudent ones.
  8. There are parts of the trail that are well worn and easy to navigate.  Take advantage of situations where there is a clear answer because they are few and far between.
  9. Know your limits and know your strengths, and those of the people with you,  before you leave the house.  It makes your preparation for the day a lot smoother.
  10. Praise and encouragement are FREE tools, and they both go a long way at motivating everyone.

LeeAnne Vaughn

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