Leadership requires courage

mountainMany many years ago I was on an alpine climbing trip with a small group of people. We were all young and hadn’t been climbing more than a couple of years but had done multiple climbs with different climbing partners to gain experience. There were four of us out this day and we had taken two different routes and we met on a ridge to then go on to the top of this small peak together. It was pretty easy going but as always there was the need to be efficient to make best use of the daylight hours and avoid being caught out in a white out or storm. Just short of the top we had to cross a large chute where most of the snow had fallen away and the angle of the drop away was much steeper, almost vertical and covered in ice.

I was feeling very uncomfortable about going across this piece without setting up a belay. We didn’t have a designated leader and the first person that spoke said, look it is getting pretty late and we really need to move quicker or we won’t get there and back before it is dark. The next person said and the weather is already bad enough we don’t want to be caught when this really packs in. The next person said it should be alright if we are quick, so let’s quickly get to the top and then back down. I didn’t realise that what everyone had said was a talk around to say something truthful and to not be the first to say what we were all avoiding. I also didn’t have the personal strength to say this was past my personal competence with out a belay and said, who wants to go first then, not wanting it to be me.

At different times over the years that followed I met them all individually and I shared my angst and discomfort and to a person they said they had felt exactly the same and shit scared but didn’t want to say. I progressively realised how lucky we had been that nothing had gone wrong but more importantly how it takes real courage and leadership to give your honest opinion when you think it s in conflict with how you want to be seen or is contrary to what people want to hear.

Mark Collins


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