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Alex Kosseff: Outdoor Leadership

1. When we talk about outdoor recreation, I don’t think that people understand even half the benefits they get while participating in programs that gets them outside and moving. Whether people do it to make friends, complete challenges, or exploring the world as well as their own limits, it can have a profound effect on their body and mind. I see outdoor programs as getting out of your comfort zone by trying new things. I believe people are always searching for their new hobby or fascination; which can bring excitement and wonder into their lives.

As program leaders it is our job to keep people engaged and to keep coming back. We can do this by leading in a way that motivates the people around us. In Outdoor Leadership by Alex Kosseff He says, “Motivation, broadly defined, is everything that drives you to get going when the going gets tough and pushes you to be the best leader you can be”. To be a great leader, you need to have a love and care for people. You not only need to lead a group on an adventure, but you need to know how to properly communicate with them and help them understand their own experiences.

It takes a long time to get the proper skills that need to be utilized when leading people. Not only do you need to know the ins and outs of program development, you should get the hands on skills to apply the knowledge that you have learned. One benefit for me that always seems to be a bonus is keeping people healthy; there is nothing like getting off the couch and exploring your world. This creates a fun, engaging way to exercise without it feeling like work.

Outdoor programs give people the opportunity to communicate with the world outside their door, and they get to experience all the benefits and consequences that comes with it. In class we talked about having some risk involved with an outing, this is critical to the learning process and fundamental need for the human soul. I know that when I engage in an activity, nothing brings excitement and thrill like the element of risk involved. Yes we need to keep people safe and be responsible, but I believe people learn the best through mistakes, good or bad.

As long as the rewards outweigh the risks or consequences, you are helping create a learning environment. My goals for meeting people’s needs, as well as my own, is to get the knowledge to be a creative leader through applying my skills to the field I am working in. I want to be able to create those experiences for people, and to do that I need to perfect my balance of my technical, interpersonal, and judgement skills. I want to be a responsible leader and to do that I need to minimize risk and impact as well as maximize learning and enjoyment. Throughout my life I will grow into my own personal style of leadership and with that I will be able to meet the needs of participants and help them accomplish their own goals and motivations for coming into outdoor recreation programs.

2. This quotes makes me think back to the reason that leaders become so involved in people’s lives and that is the aspect of a true caring nature for others. Before becoming a leader you need to check your own personal motivation; if you are motivated only by money then you might have a hard time when it comes to communicating with participants or co-leaders.

Yes you can have rules and regulations and program guidelines, but if you are a responsible and effective leader you will want to create a safe and unique program because you care for your participants and want to see them learn and grow. Alex Kosseff mentioned that a participant’s experiences and lives are largely in a leaders hands, so they rightfully expect a certain amount of care and safety will be put into an experience. You might start out an expedition with a contractual method of caring, but as the time goes on throughout your trip you could shift to a more natural caring mode when you get to know the people you are leading.

Still the same amount of care should be brought into the planning of any trip to make sure people are cared for physically and emotionally. No matter what happens on your programs expedition, you trust that your leader has your best interests in mind. This is great knowing that you will learn and discuss options that will help you acquire and interpret different solutions with your leaders. While a leader is going to make sure that people are safe, they are also going to involve the risky side of decision making and enable others to lead while still watching out for their well-being.

When I am in a leadership role the greatest moment is when I know people are understanding and using information that I have been teaching. My methods might be different by other people’s styles, but I know that because I care about my participants they will have a safe and fulfilling excursion. I think that when it comes to rules and regulations, leaders can be predictable, but the environment and participants can never be predictable; because of this you will get varied and unpredictable solutions to situations that arise.

3. The three essential elements of a leader are a balance between technical, interpersonal, and judgment skills. It does no good to be great at two and lack the third, because your stool will not be balanced and will fall. All these skills need to play off one another to be useful in critical situations in the field. Technical skills involve trip planning, first aid training, crisis response, navigation, nutrition, and many more. These are essential in keeping your group physically safe and takes planning and risk management details straightened out before the trip ever begins.

Interpersonal skills are about communication, leadership style, facilitation, ethics, as well as awareness of self. These type of skills comes with practice and applying that skill to understanding the people around you. You can have all the technical skills, but if you can’t communicate it correctly to the group members around you then you will still fall short and could cause harm in your party. The last is the judgement skills, which entails awareness of the environment, the group, and yourself. It can also cover how you react, keeping calm, and having the ability to envision the desired outcome.

You will need to make snap judgement calls on your outings, and without the help of technical, interpersonal, and proper judgements skills you can cause a real problem with your team. Being able to communicate effectively with your co-leaders is also a huge contract and something that should be resolved and understood before you get your participants in the room. If you balance these skills correctly you can have a very successful and safe learning environment, where people can experience new things and understand how to maneuver new situations.

As we talked about in class though, no matter how well you balance a stool, one hard shove can still tip it over. You need the correct motivation to be effective and committed to the situations that you are in, utilizing that judgment and awareness skills when they are most needed. Just because you fall doesn’t mean you get to stay down; a true leader will recover and come back swinging even harder. Hard skills are more technical, while soft skills are interpersonal and judgement. To me I know that my technical skills are lower on the stool leg, which is something that I am working on improving.

Knowing that you have a weakness is a great place to start. I have communication skill, but might need to hone them to certain situations and make sure that I am communicating effectively for the audience that I am with. Judgment is something that is always changing, the more I learn and experience, the more I know myself and the people around me. With applying all the skills we talked about, I will start to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t; in doing so I will be able to make quicker judgement decisions correctly.

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