Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Characteristics of a Leader

We spent much of the first two months talking about adventuring as though an escape for normal life and so it might reasonably follow that one would approach life with a different set of guidelines. In our discussion of morality either on the mountain or in a boat, we often talk as though what we take to be valuable on an expedition is judged differently than when in the "real world." What about leadership?  I have always thought one of the most important characteristics of a leader was humility.  A leader needs humility in order to listen to others, to make them feel as though their contributions are valuable, and to bring a group together.  Some people find bonding as a team important, while others might see keeping morale high as simply a pragmatic way to get everyone to work the hardest, and thus achieve the goal--whatever the motivation, humility seems a crucial piece of leadership.

But what type of leadership?  Does this still apply outside of the "real world"?  How about when things get desperate?

He is described as having a "monstrous ego and implacable drive" with often unrealistic expectations that led to accusations of being "immature and irresponsible."  This is not the description of a leader I'd want as part of a sports team, or group at work, or creative project.  But when the situation becomes hopeless, who better than someone who believes unconditionally in the success of the mission, who can motivate when others lose the will to do so, who will push on no matter what?

Shackleton has "one pervading characteristic," that he was "purposeful," and for this reason alone, "when there is no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton."

While it is interesting to see that we value different characteristics in leaders in extreme situations compared to daily life, what is more interesting is to discuss what exactly we can take from adventure stories and apply it to our own lives.  That is to say, what do we really get out of armchair adventuring?  We clearly enjoy it, and yet have a tendency to cast some of the recurring themes as outside the realms of our normal daily guidelines.

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