In the backcountry, you’re always making decisions that effect the entire group–where to camp, when to take a break, whether to turn around because the weather’s deteriorating, etc. Whether you’re on a two-day backpacking trip or a month-long expedition, leadership is integral to the success of your trip. So, unless all of your outdoor pursuits are solo ventures, you’ve probably been practicing leadership in the backcountry. But how well do you know your leadership style? Here are two popular leadership styles–which one best describes your approach to problem solving?
In preparation for a long day climbing, you and your climbing partner agreed to head for the approach at 7am. At 6:30am, you’re both just starting to eat breakfast and the gear you need is spread out throughout camp; it doesn’t look like you’re going to hit that 7am deadline. How do you react?
Realizing that the show will never get not the road unless you start moving, you inhale breakfast, start organizing the racks, and tell your buddy to start packing ropes. If you keep checking off tasks and making sure he does the same, you realize you may have an on-time departure.
This is the classic response of a driver: they see what needs to be done, they start taking care of things, and they try to engage the rest of the group. Their primary goals are efficiency and finishing the task at hand. While this can be a very effective style, the driver may overlook personal needs and some people feel rushed by the quickness with which drivers react to problem solving.
Given the same scenario, the relationship oriented leader begins talking with her climbing partner, asking how his morning is going, whether he slept well, etc. She knows that giving him the time to wake up on his own schedule will make the day go more smoothly than if she rushes breakfast.
Relationship oriented leaders believe that strong relationships will make problem solving go more smoothly. They frequently look for a wider range of opinions and seek to make choices that work for the entire group. The lack of speed can be frustrating to drivers, but certain situations warrant a slower approach.
Which style works best?
Each style has its pros and cons, so know which style you’re prone to using and recognize that other people in your group may have different (and equally valuable) approaches to problem solving. This will go a long way toward making you a more effective leader.