During the Fall I took part in a Bruce Trail End-to-End hike with my friend. The hikes were long (33km and 27km respectively); we were walking all day. When describing them to other friends they often asked me “Why?”. My responses were: I wanted to catch up with a friend so what better way than to walk and talk at the same time; I wanted to challenge myself to see if I can actually hike that far in one day; I like being outdoors and love the Fall season.
However after completing these hikes I took some time to reflect on my experience and identified areas that reiterated my belief that leadership opportunities are everywhere.
These are my leadership reflections:
- Set a clear goal and contingency options: We had set ourselves a challenge to complete the hikes but also recognised we may physically not be able to achieve our goal, so we had a contingency back-up plan. We were both pleased when we didn’t have to take action on this contingency.
- Recognise when you should lead and when you should follow: We took turns being the leader and the follower on the narrow trail. Being the leader in this situation meant setting the pace and watching for the trail markers to ensure we didn’t turn off course. This took some concentration and focus. However, the leader needed support from the follower because we knew from experience it is easy to get off trail. If you were the follower, you were still a follower-leader and had a responsibility to the team.
- Work within the strengths of each other, but stretch together:Quickly into the hikes we realised one of us performed better walking on the flat and the other walking up/down hills. So whilst we had identified our strengths, we also encouraged each other to lean into discomfort and challenge ourselves, in order to collectively achieve our goal.
- Use the support of others: As this was an organized End-to-End hike we had check-points along the way with volunteers cheering us on and refreshments available to keep us fuelled and energized. After day one I learned I took too many provisions which weighed my backpack down too much. On day two I decided to take less food and water and trust that the volunteers would have adequate provisions for me to refuel. When we are aware of our environment and what support it provides, we can use it to help us and our teams achieve our goals.
- Understand the needs of each other: My friend and I are different personalities and have different needs. And in a challenging environment, we handle stress or physical pain in different ways. At different points along our hike we were able to tell each other what we needed: to stop for a break, to move faster to reach the finish line, to stop talking and focus, to slow down or speed up. The important element here is that we kept the communication lines open, shared what our needs were and agreed together what to do next.
- Celebrate achievements: I was not doing this hike for a reward personally, but was happy to receive a badge as acknowledgement of our achievement. We are all motivated by different things and my motivation was the personal satisfaction of completing it, but the badge will be a nice reminder of my achievements the next time I grab the backpack and go on a hike.
Yours in health and leadership,