Outdoor Leadership Vs. Management

There’s a difference between outdoor leadership and management.  Management is when you ensure people carry out predetermined tasks leading to a defined outcome.  Managers aren’t looking for innovation.  They’re there to ensure things get done according to a preexisting plan.  When we’re cooking a group dinner over a campfire in a remote location, we often break up the tasks to spread the work among the participants.  Specific people accomplish specific tasks.  That’s management.

Leaders empower their followers and give them input into the process.  The goals remain, but  every step of how to get there isn’t mapped out, or, if it is, can be changed.  To use the analogy of the campfire dinner, a leader might discuss what the available foods were and then decide as a group the best way to prepare them.  Or maybe the leader would begin making the meal and encourage others to participate if they were interested.  In this role the leader inspires others to try, experiment and innovate.

Leadership has a strong connection to learning.  Good teachers combine management and leadership because they challenge their students to solve problems and come up with solutions while working toward both specific and general goals.

Much of what passes for outdoor leadership is actually people management in the outdoors.  I think the difference is important to note.

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