Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A True Test of Leadership


Sometimes the sign of a true leader is the ability to let others lead.
One snowy winter day I decided it would be fun to take our two daughters cross-country skiing. It was a beautiful day filled with sunshine and the glisten of white snowflakes that beckoned us to get out of the house and enjoy the day. We piled in the car with our gear and headed to a wonderful winter playground complete with snow tubing, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing.

The cross-country ski trails had been groomed to make the experience more enjoyable for the novice skier. I was relieved since my girls were new to cross-country skiing and a bit sceptical of how plodding along on two skinny skis could possibly be fun when they were watching the other kids race down the slippery hills seated on a snow tube. I insisted that once they got the knack of cross-country skiing, they would enjoy gliding through the woods looking for critters and listening for their calls. They were sceptical but agreed to the challenge.

With a map in hand, skinny skis on our feet and poles on our wrists we set our skis on the narrow path and headed out on a trail, one skier behind the other. The girls caught on quickly and we were gliding along when we came to a fork in the path. Should we take the well-travelled, popular trail or the path less travelled? Of course, the children picked the path less travelled and we headed toward adventure. 

Soon enough we came to another fork in the road that wasn't indicated on our map. Which way to go? We veered to the left which took us around a large frozen lake. The girls were getting tired. I was getting nervous. The map was no longer of use.

As cold seeped into our bones, worry crept into our hearts. We were lost and the sun was setting. Where was the path that led us back to the warm, cozy lodge? I watched as the girls grew despondent and lingered back on the trail. Words of encouragement fell on cold, deaf ears.
Another fork in the road, which way to go?

My youngest daughter wanted a chance to lead. She had been trailing behind in the third position and was tired of it. I acquiesced.

Within seconds of taking the number one position on the path, I saw her head rise, her shoulders broaden and her gait liven. She was leading us now and she literally and figuratively rose to the challenge, soon she was motivating us with her energy and determination to set this right. When we came to yet another fork in the path, my oldest wanted to lead the pack. Again, I acquiesced and witnessed the same determination appear in body and spirit when she was the leader. Suddenly, she was using all of her senses to look for clues to find the lodge and determined to get us back as quickly as possible. The transformation in spirit was palpable.

Sure enough, we heard a car in the distance and followed the sound to find a curvy road. We soon unbuckled our skis, hoisted them on our shoulders and began to sing Girl Scout songs to lift our spirits. Within 10 minutes of hiking we saw the lodge before us and let out a whelp of excitement. We had done it. We had found the lodge before frost-bite and darkness set in.

As parents we like to think that we have all of the answers. It's our job to lead, to guide, to encourage. On this day, I learned that allowing others to lead is the only true path to leadership. When placed in a leadership role, others will rise to the challenge when given the chance to do so. We only need to get out of the way.

Toni Schutta

Toni Schutta is a Parent Coach and Licensed Psychologist with 17 years experience helping parents find solutions that work. Her most recent project includes a series of audios that solve the top 10 parenting challenges. Click here now to take a look at this great program.