Responsible Leadership: Where to Start

Leadership entails responsibility. Some leadership roles more than others.

I recently took two of my nephews on their first mountaineering trip. I hired a guide for our climb up Mt. Baker because I wanted them to learn the skills and practices of safe climbing in a potentially dangerous environment.

John Race, internationally certified guide and co-owner of Northwest Mountain School, was more than up to the task. Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of the insights gleaned from John about leadership as a mountain guide. This week, the starting point: Trust as the foundation for responsible leadership.

Trust Trumps Obedience

On the mountain, the guide is ultimately in charge. That’s how it should be in a hazardous environment. Yet John finds that effective leadership is based more on building trust than demanding obedience. He wants his clients to trust that he is looking after their best interests and that he will help them achieve their goals.

So how does he build trust? 1) By communicating the why behind his decisions, not just the what. He wants them to understand his thinking and he wants to develop their thinking. 2) By soliciting their suggestions and being open to them. Which conveys a sense of respect and partnership. 3) By remaining firm on those things he feels are essential to safety and to achieving their goals. He wants them to know that he won’t compromise his responsibility to their safety and success.

Responsible leadership starts with relationship. And relationship starts with trust.

Next week: Responsible Leadership: How Hard to Push Your People

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