Leadership Implementation and Lessons from Mountaineering
As a mountaineering instructor and mountaineer I have had lot of opportunities to harness my leadership abilities and ponder upon the ways to improve them first as a trainee, the non mountaineering expeditions and later as a Mountaineering Instructor. Leadership is a quality not confined to one particular profession or aspect of life. Whatever we look forward to do efficiently requires deployment of leadership qualities.
I take this opportunity to share with the readers some of the vital approaches taken and lessons learnt with respect to effective leadership.
1. Become an example and not a boss.
Do it yourself first and then expect others to do and follow it.
Ex: As an instructor if I want my trainees to run, do pushups and push the limits even when they feel they are tired and won’t be able to do it, I will run beside them, do push up with them on every count and infact do some extra pushups with few trainees showing the sign to do the same so that others admire it and get to know that if the instructor can do it, they all can do it. I must sweat with them instead of standing and passing mere instructions.
2. Professional competence
As a professional you must increase your professional capabilities. Learnings a lifelong process. There is no end to it. The day a leader stops to become a student, he is no more a good leader. Hence one must increase his/her professional knowledge so that one remains abreast with the latest developments in his/her profession. Do not stay confined just to your field; curiosity to learn more and explore diverse areas will add to your knowledge. You must have the reason for your subordinates to realize what qualifies you to be in a superior position. Professional knowledge will add to your confidence in front of the group of trainees/ juniors and even seniors.
2. Stay true to your values, logic and decisions
You are unique person, maintain that uniqueness. At the end of the day we must have our own value and logic system. These two traits will decide the quality of your decisions to quite a large extent. Once you are upright and clear in your logic, your decision will have solid ground even in adverse situation. The requirement to take decision cannot be ignored and the need to take good decision cannot be underestimated.
3. Deal tactfully with demagogues
If you come across a rebel rouser, instead of suppressing them with mere force stay tactful with them and win over them. You achieve this if you follow the rule number 2 and 3 above.
It had been two days since the herdsman buffalo with her toe stuck and broken was lying in pain at ABVIMAS snow craft training area. Herdsman and his wife struggled to bring the doctor to buffalo. We were total 60 young boys and men including trainees and instructors. One fine day of rigorous training in snow craft just after reaching back the base camp and having lunch when the trainees hurried to tents to rest for two hours, I gathered them to conduct the rescue of 1000 kg buffalo with the help of improvised stretcher and all the manpower available. To my call all appeared, few silent, few enthusiastic and few in a rebellious mode unwilling to take the pain to rescue. The rebels had few leaders and many revolted against me. Yet I stood by my decision on the basis of my value system and logic. Boys including rebellious ones followed and we all managed to lift the buffalo out of the rock and shift her to a relatively flat surface a few feet away. After returning there was uncomfortable air in the camp. What to do now? Just after tea I decided to take another instructor’s lecture on ice axe, boots and crampon and appear once again in front of the trainees. I conducted the lecture, in a neutral manner, covering all the aspects and in the end cracked a sarcasm to make them laugh. I could see the trainees coming back to my fold and those who had revolted were now sorry for their behavior. Why did I appear to take the lecture? Trainees must not reach the false conclusion that their rebellious behavior frightened me, or lowered my ability to maintain the necessary command. Same rebellious trainees expressed regard for many months even after the course finished.
4. Get the Job done
If you are in a leadership role, your prime task is to get the job done. Your task is not to make everyone happy.
In Mt. Everest selection camp, I as the course leader had many responsibilities. Conducting these efficiently required self-discipline, discipline from the course members and management mechanism. The task allotted to me was intimated to and discussed with the individual rope leaders for everyone to abide by the instructions. I as the course leader was the first man to appear on the field before time during fall-in to set an example. Even those who were uncomfortable to follow the instructions in a required manner, followed it.
5. Stay compassionate but firm
As a leader of men /women stay compassionate to their problems but stay alert that in this process they must not identify this compassion and take advantage of the same.
At the end of Mt.Nun (7135 M) expedition, the group of 10 porters from “Tangol” village situated in the lower reaches of Mt. Nun arrived at the base camp one day prior to the fixed date. Two of our climbing members after successful summit and exhaustion decided to stay at camp 1 and reach base camp the following day. The porters took a fixed measure of weight to carry as the members had not arrived. I and my buddies from Italy, and Poland had arrived at base camp and could not meet porters’ expectations. Porters were unwilling to return all the way through glacier, empty handed. Confusion and argument began amongst the porters. I took charge of the situation and had a convincing dialogue with them. We offered them a plastic sheet to make an improvised shelter adjoining a boulder and offered them tea and few biscuit packets. We also gave them one utensil to cook rice and daal for themselves to keep them busy till sunset after which the freezing temperature ultimately got them more focused on staying warm and sleep all together. The next day when other climbers arrived after a brief rest, we began to windup the camp and distribute the load in measure of 20 kg each for each porter. One young porter had about 5-6 kg less load. He requested if he can take my tent to make it 20 kg as it was compact and light weight, so that he gets paid accordingly by his in-charge. I shifted to another tent, folded my tent and gave it to him to carry. The entire luggage was to be unloaded at ‘Tangol’ village and to be carried to a hotel in ‘Leh’. When we reached the hotel in ‘Leh’. I discovered my tent had been stolen from ‘Tangol’ village itself and never reached ‘Leh’. The tent was recovered after one month but I realized that had I not fallen for compassion towards the request of the young porter and instead taken a different course of action to meet his requirement and brought my tent back to ‘Leh’ myself like other members, I would have not entered the hassle of enquiring and retrieving the tent.
CEO - The Mountain Knights