Monday, July 28, 2014

Leadership Lessons on the Hiking Trail

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I spent the last week in Colorado on vacation. We made it an outdoor vacation as much as possible, with hiking and biking the dominant activities. I'm not an extreme sports kind of guy, but I do like doing things outdoors that in some small way test me and my capabilities.

This was a family vacation, so our choice of outdoor activities was limited by the capabilities and comfort levels of my two young children. We looked at white water rafting, as an example, which two of us were willing to try and two of us weren't, so we opted for a bike ride instead that day (which turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip).

The most strenuous thing we did was hiking in Maroon Bells. Any one who has made the trek up to Crater Lake will attest to how difficult (and rewarding) this can be. Parts of the trail seem much better suited for mountain goats than Midwestern families on vacation.

I'll admit it. At one point I took my eyes off the trail and my toe caught on one of the rocks and I fell. My nine-year-old daughter skipped across them like playing hopscotch and my seventy-year-old father-in-law strode across them like Paul Bunyan; but me, I fell flat on my face and skinned both my knees.

In the moment I was more worried about the persistent ache in my right knee and the damage I had done to my pride, but with some reflection I realized it could more usefully be viewed as a lesson in leadership.

When hiking, or leading others, try the thing that's difficult and do it publicly in front of people. Prepare for it, and by all means, take it seriously, but have fun while you're doing it. There's certainly hard work to do, but remember to stop from time to time to look around at the scenery you would otherwise never see had you not taken on the task.

And most importantly, when you stumble, pick yourself up with humility and grace and press on. It is always the most difficult journeys that have the most rewarding destinations.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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