Before joining an expedition..

At any given moment, there are hundreds of expeditions going on around the world. They might be solo or team events. The more extraordinary and not-done-before kind they are, the more they attract attention. I am glad to be a part of one such expedition, that is not been frequently attempted before. Not from India, anyway.

Over the 5 odd varied expeditions I have been a part of, I have concluded that it is the team’s leader that makes the biggest difference to how well it goes for you. Forget you ability to cope, your capability to accomplish or even your experience of past expeditions. For every expedition that you are a part of to be successful, a great leader is a common denominator.

Communication is key. A great expedition leader communicates often, clearly and with decisiveness. There are no maybes and there is always a definite plan for everything, even the unpredictable. The communication has to be conveyed to all directly, and together. Asking questions, also takes top priority as does answering them. Letting on as much information as possible and the rational behind some decisions is crucial to gain the team member’s trust. Selective communication or ignoring any individual does not inspire confidence in a leader. Misinforming the team about the overall plan or not informing them at all, can ferment silent rebellion in the team.

In a team, the leader’s authority is ultimate. Advice may be solicited and opinions sought, but the decision remains the leader’s alone. A poor leader undermines his position by having others solution the team member’s issues.

Establishing a patterns earlier on is extremely important for the expedition’s success. This includes timing the daily activities, break and meals. A reaction pattern also needs to be set for situations that call for everyone to act fast. Like, in our case, runaway camels. This not only ensures that the body copes well with the sudden hike in physical effort, but the team member’s are at peace too. They know what to expect at particular time of the day and in case of certain events.

Creating groups of similarly abled team members to buddy each other often reduces the leader’s load. Though the responsibility remains with him, delegating works effectively when distance and/or lack of means of communication prevent the leader’s presence at hand. A great leader accepts all the team members with their strengths and weaknesses. Smart delegation is called for when all individuals are different culturally and by physical ability. Quick wit and a sense of humour are indispensable tools in a leader’s backpack too.

A golden rule that every leader follows is to be true to facts–past, present or future. Under no circumstances does the leader dispute or contradict the claims he has made about other past expeditions, an older edition of the same expedition or his achievements. Seems unlikely, but people remember and learn to connect the dots.

It is truly a thankless job, when done well. As a leader, you need to answer all questions, take difficult decisions, and live with them if they do not turn out to be appropriate in the long run. But then, with a job done well, come the rewards. Your reputation precedes you and you are sought after to lead the next one of its kind expedition. Repeating successes and happy teams are the hallmark of a true expedition leader.

So before you embark on you next expedition, be sure to ask the leader his/her experience in leading expeditions in the past.

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