Thursday, July 15, 2010

Adapting My Style to What Works

Today, at the Ropes Course, I learned that everyone had different leadership styles. Many people's comfort zone was in the leadership style that they took most often- for example, concerned with results, relationships, vision, or details. During the Ropes Course, because of restrictions on some aspects and encouragement on others, people challenged themselves to try other styles that would most benefit the whole group in that particular situation. I challenged myself to trust anyone in the group to hold me, catch me, and guide me through the course in more ways than one.

Trust-Leaning Activity

About myself, I learned that patience is important in working together. In some activities we were made to be silent. I learned that when my ability to communicate is impaired, if I have something to say, I become frustrated. Eventually, however, I learned how to make the situation work for myself and the group. I think that it was both a physical and mental challenge, because it was a physical restriction but a mental challenge to deal with.

Here are some pictures from our lunch at a beach filled with rocks and shells. It was actually very pretty.

Top Left: Allie finds a rotting crab leg. Top Right: Lindsey and Lina explore together. Center: Lupe investigates the shore. Bottom: Tierra has fun!

With physical challenges, I pushed myself very hard. For example, at the tightropes, I refused to stop when I felt wobbly, even when My and Aaron (the facilitators) were telling me to step off because they were scared for me. I know that they thought that they were helping me, and I would probably do the same if I were in their place.

However, I felt at the time that I could do it and that I didn't want to show weakness to myself or my peers by stepping off. It was like giving up to me. After a long while, I finally stepped off on the highest, longest tightrope. So my physical challenges mostly turned into mental ones that I either resolved (like the silence) or that I allowed to weaken my contribution or participation to the group.

Ryan (a major driving force in the Leadership Institute) and I

In a group, sometimes it will take me a while to step up and be seen as a traditional "leader". I usually let someone else try a challenge first, and then I go second. It's partly to learn from their mistakes, and partly out of fear that I might not succeed. I might even think that I would be judged in some way because of that.

Beautiful views of the beach

Groups work best when people step a little bit out of their comfort zones. That helps everyone participate but also encourage others to play a part. I will definitely apply this knowledge in the coming week by continuing to challenge myself to be an active learner. This means speaking up when I'm feeling quiet, and letting others speak if there's an issue that I've been contributing to in a discussion for a while.


  1. Irene,
    I’m sure you’re seeing first hand that leadership takes form in many different ways. Sometimes we led by our deeds, sometimes by our oratory and sometimes by the written word.

    Sometimes we can lead by allowing other people to accept positions of leadership above their comfort zone. As they say, a rising tide raises all boats. When your partners and teammates rise up, don’t you rise up along with them? Isn’t that what being a part of a team is all about?

    Today’s exercises were more physical in nature than what you’ve been learning in your classrooms but even here you were being taught mental lessons. The exercises where you had to communicate while remaining silent is but one of them.

  2. Yes. The texts that we've been reading suggest that leadership especially in this day and age can only exist with coalitions and team building.

    I was very surprised as to how mental it all was. I was tired not because of the physical aspect, but because of the mental aspect.