We witnessed fantastic displays of leadership during our Canoe Leadership Event. Leaders stepped up in a variety of ways, ways I had not anticipated! One of the elements built into the event was “leadership points”, to be awarded to individual contributors during the debrief. Our winner was a very unlikely recipient….
One of the “canoers” (btw, auto-correct does not like any form of this word!) who had been in a near-drowning accident as a child was deathly afraid of water, but because the river was so shallow (and everyone promised “good behavior”!) the participant relented and joined in after all. Having no experience in a canoe, not surprisingly, this particular canoer arrived at the first stopping point, dead last. Undeterred, they paddled on. Then the fatal moment…the canoe caught on a branch and tipped over (!!!) – October 2nd – in the chilly Michigan river…YIKES! Unfortunately, the river had gotten the best of this afraid-of-water-never-been-in-a-canoe canoer. Given the temp and soaking wet clothes, the logical choice was to call the canoe livery staff for a mid-trip pick-up. 🙁
After changing into dry clothing, the canoer became visibly upset at the idea of facing the rest of the team…”I’m so embarrassed because I’m the only one who couldn’t/didn’t finish”. Finally, after some coaxing, the canoer did in fact join the group.
It was time to assign leadership points. The only direction I gave was to “assign your points to the person (other than yourself) who displayed leadership (of any kind) most impressive/impactful to you individually“. We heard everything from “…pulled my canoe in so I could stay dry” to “…started out with a fantastic attitude that was contagious” to “…was patient and instructed me on steering the canoe”. I asked the high-scorers to stand in the front of the room. We had a great group before us! In an attempt to identify the winner (they were all winners, right?), I asked leaders with lower scores to take their seats. One by one, the leaders sat down. The last person standing (who earned the most peer-assigned leadership points) was the person mentioned above, the one who had not finished the trek! This was a loud-and-clear testament to the significance of this unexpected leadership trait!! People were most impressed by this canoer’s courage – the courage to take part in the event and push past an overwhelming fear; the courage to come back after tipping (!); and the courage to stand before peers after perceived “poor performance”. Well done.
Unexpected leadership….on the river, in a canoe.