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Aug 7
Lead by Following
Things don’t always go as you plan.

Two weeks ago I was hiking in Zion’s National Park in Southern Utah. I planned a trip to back-pack the 16.5 miles of the West Rim Trail over two days. It was an opportunity to be with “my three sons” - ages 16, 11 and 7. To make it interesting, I also invited my Father, who turns 76 in a few weeks. My sister, her three boys (20, 15, 12) and my brother-in-law also accompanied us.

three sons.JPG
<<<<<< "my three sons"

My Father had often taken me backpacking and camping as I was growing up. I have fond memories of those experiences and they shaped me as a person. He had made this same trip 13 years ago with some older grandkids. So, with his help, I planned the trip and off we went, three generations, backpacking through amazing landscapes, rock formations and a thunderstorm.three generations.JPG


 In truth, the trip went off without a hitch. No sickness, no injuries, no accidents. So I don’t have much to report. Nevertheless, I learned two important lessons about leadership. Both by accident.

 "three generations">>

Don’t protect your weaker team members from responsibility and/or the potential of failure. Rather, provide appropriate opportunities that stretch them but that they can capably achieve.

My two youngest boys had never been backpacking. They had been camping and on some short hikes but they had never carried all of the water, food, and gear necessary to survive the backcountry. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was not planning on having my 7 year-old carry a pack but my Father suggested that my son needed to be a part of the team and like everyone else, carry a load. Maybe that load was only three pounds but he believed that everyone needed the responsibility of carrying a pack and the sense of accomplishment that accompanies any worthy effort. He did not want his grandson left out or for him to get the idea that we didn’t think he was capable of shouldering his load like everyone else. I listened. Without a complaint, all of my boys carried the gear and provisions they were given. The gear and weight they carried corresponded to their age and ability. It was easy for none but all willingly did what they could. All of us shared the burden of carrying what our family needed on this trip. All contributed. All were empowered.
Sometimes you have to get out of the way and follow to be a leader.

I noticed in few training hikes and on our trip that my younger kids hiked with more energy, focus and determination when they were at the front of our group. When I was at the front, it seemed no matter what pace I hiked, they always lagged. I would slow down in an effort to keep them closer behind me, they slowed down. I would speed up they would too but they still lagged. At one point after a rest, they started up the trail ahead of me. That was fine with me. I expected the pace to really slow down without me leading the charge and pulling them along.  Not so. I could not have been more wrong. Now they set the pace. They held the responsibility of leadership. They were empowered. Suddenly, their pace was equal to mine. We made our best timeBeecher leads.JPG when my 7 year old was at the front. And so he stayed at the front most of the trip. 

 And I followed.

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