Saturday, January 8, 2011

On Leaders and Followers in Outdoor Recreation

At a rough guess, I'd say there are about ten followers for every leader participating in outdoor recreation. Leaders aren't necessarily the person on the trip schedule with their name down as "coordinator", nor are the necessarily the person who pulls the group together, books the cabin or organizes the carpool, but leaders are the people who are willing to push out into unknown terrain, who are willing to take risks, and who frequently find themselves recreating in the mountains with a whole slew (sometimes too many) of followers behind.

Leaders tend to accumulate followers the way whales accumulate barnacles. Followers want to go new and different places but lack either the creativity to pull together new trips or the courage to carry them out. But, they recognize in leaders a vehicle for getting where they want to go, just as barnacles are transported to new feeding grounds by whales.

Most recreational groups of peers will claim, if asked, that they have no leader and are making decisions by consensus. But, in reality, this is rarely the case. Although the issue of leadership has likely not been discussed, most of the people who are in the group are there simply to follow and are adept at picking up non-verbal and verbal cues as to who they should follow, and whose decisions they should back.

Leaders know they are leaders, followers, because our society favors leaders over followers, frequently pretend they aren't. 

 Following the leader

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