Being good leaders and followers.
In his book, Don’t Die on the Mountain, Dan H. Allen states that: “While we assume the leader’s objective is to climb a peak, keep in mind that the leader’s major goal is to bring everyone back safe and, secondarily, as content as possible.
He makes the point that there is an important partnership and implied contract between the leaders and the followers. “As either a leader or a follower, you need to be aware of the life threatening situations and how to deal with them by making safe decisions”. Although you are the follower, it is in the best interest of the group for you to think like a leader and contribute your ideas and concerns to the leader when appropriate.
In the airline industry this is called Crew Resource Management. In CRM, the captain of the plane empowers the flight crew and staff to speak up if they have any concerns regarding safety. In 2017, commercial airlines in the United States, who have embraced CRM, marked their eighth consecutive year with no fatal accidents.
Several years ago my wife and I were hiking in Yosemite in a guided group. Most of us were on the top of Nevada falls when a severe thunderstorm struck. There was very little warning before the storm struck. We moved away from the exposed rocky surface on top of the falls and into the relative safety of the forest. As we regrouped, we noted that one of the hikers was not with us, even though his wife was in the group. There were two trails down to the valley floor from the top of the falls and we had not yet decided which one we would take.
To sum up the situation: One of the hikers was presumably hiking alone down one of the trails in a severe thunderstorm and had not communicated his intentions to the leader or to any members of the group.
Dan Allen states that your responsibilities as a follower include:
1) Making a reasonable decision before the hike as to whether your physical condition, interest, skills and ability match those requisite for the outing,
2) Discussing with the leader before the trip any gear inadequacies, personal agendas, health problems or relevant limitations,
3) Coming to the hike as prepared as you can be in terms of food, rest, clothing, equipment and physical condition,
4) Arriving at the meeting place on time,
5) Communicating to the leader during the outing, whatever information the leader needs to make informed decisions, including any problems you are having, and,
6) Making an effort to be a member of the group by adjusting your pace to stay with the other members, to the extent you can, and by participating in group conversations.
So what happened to the hiker who broke the rules? The leader and the rest of the group formed a plan to keep the main group together, to designate one of the followers as this group’s leader and the guide laid out his plan to search for the missing hiker. He found the hiker about a half mile away, down one of the trails and returned with him to the now very wet group. Together, we choose the best trail to take in the rain and continued down together employing a leader and a sweep.
“Don’t be a sheep. Do participate constructively. Add to the collective alertness.” Dan Allen.