Sunday, February 10, 2013

Group dynamics

Blum’s account of her leadership contrasted with Herzog’s in a number of ways. Herzog was quite direct and did not discuss many of the relationships within the expedition group. The focus of his book was to tell the story of their expedition in regards to climbing, not the development of the group. His leadership seems to be unquestioned, and although at one point Herzog mentions some frustration with his decision, he writes only a short paragraph to discuss the sour feelings. Blum, on the other hand, describes in much greater detail her struggle with developing solid group camaraderie and gaining trust as a leader. She poses the question “What does it mean to be the ‘strong leader’ of ten tough-minded women who all want to contribute to each decision?” (49). Indeed, there are points when Blum describes the learning she must do in order to successfully lead this particular group. In Blum’s account of her expedition, much of the group discussions focus on developing a positive and supportive group dynamic, rather than just the how to get to the summit.

I enjoyed reading about the development of this group over the course of the preparation and execution of this expedition. One of my favorite parts about leading backpacking trips for kids during the summer is watching the group come together over the course of the trip. The group starts out as a bunch of individuals trying to get to know one another and figure out their role in this strange new group setting, and by the end of the trip they have usually transitioned into more of a community.

In Blum’s account, the switch to a more united group seems to be at the end of chapter 7 when group members give Blum feedback about her leadership and discuss how they want the trip to be moving forward. Blum writes, “It had been worth it to take the time to face each other and expose our vulnerability, hurt, and anger, and then our fears. We realized again how much we cared about each other, and our shared laughter had been the final healing touch” (119). Sections like this in Blum’s work stand out to me partly because of the contrasting tone with Herzog’s book. Blum writes more extensively on the changing group dynamics over the course of the expedition. While the goal of the summit is never absent, I found the sections about the group dynamics and Blum’s reflections on how she became the “strong leader of ten tough-minded women” to be some of the most compelling. These sections not only highlight her ability to adapt and learn from feedback, qualities I find crucial to effective leadership, but also demonstrate the bond that develops within the group over the course of the expedition (49).

And since I am pretty sure that I have a different version of the book, here is the citation for it.

Blum, Arlene. Annapurna: A Woman’s Place. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1980. Print.  

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