Sitting on a camp chair at Arches National Park at the LaSalle Mountains Viewpoint with two of my closest friends waiting for the super moon to rise above the horizon of the mountains in front of us, I reflected upon the day. “I was looking California, but feeling Minnesota.” And right now living Utah.
Everything I know about leadership I could have learned this day if I didn’t already know, but if I did, today would have only reinforced it.
My friend Joe is an adventurer. I’ve never met anyone who was more at peace and more in tune with Mother Earth’s great outdoors. He’s guided people through the West Virginia white waters. Over the course of eight months, he set foot every day to hike the entire Appalachian Trail by himself and with others. He’s mountain biked alone and under the full moon over 10,000 feet up among the Rocky Mountains. And today, he led us on a hike at Arches National Park, 2.8 miles to and from the Delicate Arch and around the six plus mile loop at Devil’s Garden.
Early in the morning as we were hiking up the hill to Delicate Arch, I was huffing and puffing gasping for air wondering what had I signed up for; and thinking there was no way I could last another twenty minutes, let alone an entire day. It was only 7:30 AM.
A funny thing happened on the way to heaven. I didn’t notice it until much later in the day, but I started to get stronger. Much of that was because Joe believed in me. He let us take our time, stopped when we needed to, circled back when we needed him. He told us when to lean in, where to step, where not to step, where to hold, when to look up, and when to look down, all the while providing commentary to the landscape. He is an expert. I am not. I am not even slightly coordinated, and certainly not athletic. And yet, because Joe believed that I could do it, I did.
And so it was that I remembered one of the core competencies of a good leader – believing in those that follow but even more important giving them belief in themselves. It’s not easy to do. The great ones have that ability to instill belief. The poor ones create an environment where that belief is always in question.
I got stronger as the day moved. I gained confidence in my feet and in my shoes, more importantly – in myself. My balance and footing became more sure. Why? Because Joe, who’s an expert, believed in me. Who was I to argue with that?
He gave me belief, and provided me inspiration. And so I climbed a mountain.
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