What is an Attitude of Leadership?
We often think that it is the weather that defines the day, but in our aspect; the adventure therapy view, it is "attitude to..." that is key.
Preparation and good equipment play a large part, but these are not the mainstay.
I have a true story that perfectly relates the point.
I was lucky enough to work with the great Clancy of Connemara, one of the "originals" of outdoor adventure. We had a school group from a large mixed (meaning girls n guys) school in Limerick, for a week, in conditions that could only be described as "Oirish." It rained the entire time.
We had a calendar of activities that included Atlantic surf kayaking, hill walking in the mountains of Connemara and a week's worth of camping. Accompanied with excursions to interesting local sites, it would be a full week of outdoor living in old scout tents, exactly like the one below.
Image courtesy of www.ernestghart.co.uk
During the days the weather was "muggy and wettish," but at night it often lashed rain.
Around midweek, one of the lads, a big, quiet fella, who I noticed was greatly respected by his peer group, came to me and asked to use a washing machine. He was completely out of dry clothes.
I asked the boss and the response was that there was an industrial machine to wash clothes back at base, but that usually it would not be used on a "summer camp." I was asked to go back and speak to my campers to see why this particular young man was so short of dry clothes, aside from the obvious reason that it had been raining non stop for a week, in the mountains.
The reason he did not have clothes was simple.
My young hero had been sleeping on the outside, windward, side of the group. He had intentionally taken the place that was wettest, where the rain would spin drift in under the old scout tent. The point where condensation would seep down the inside and wind would push rain between tent wall and ground sheet.
The other campers in the tent were quick to corroborate this fact. They added that this quiet and tolerant lad had also given his own extra dry clothes to other campers in the tent, when they ran short. As the week wore on, he had none left for himself. As a result he had come to ask to wash his kit, without ever broaching the reasons why.
Of course it came up again on the campfire sessions at the end of the trip - we were all hugely impressed. While it was a story that made the young man in question blush, it was an attitude that characterized him, in his strong, quiet, dependability and also in glinting sparkles spread among the other members of the group.
I have not spoken about the rest of the group. Even though conditions were profoundly awful for this group of teenagers - they were relentlessly cheerful. There were other adventures, not to be recounted here, which happened - it wasn't all sleeping in tents, you know.
They achieved something that week, holding themselves differently as they boarded the bus. There was a profound sense of young people seeing themselves as capable people. It was something which was recognizable to all of us who watched them go and to each other.
The group did not gain this quality at the camp. The school they came from already had an outdoor program - an unusual syllabus in itself, it also held a reputation for fostering self reliance, civic responsibility and foresighted programs.
Nobody would have wished for torrential conditions in mid July, but when things turned rough, they brought this attitude of leadership to bear. It is hard to describe "attitude to..." but whatever it is this group had "the right stuff."
They had a wild week in Connemara, but conditions did not deter them, far from it, they reveled and grew in the challenge. Someone once said that greatness is "ordinary people doing extraordinary things." In this case individually and collectively they already knew how to lead. They "leaned in."