The Climb!

In September, I had the opportunity to go to the Italian Dolomites to help facilitate the course, Leading with Emotional Intelligence, offered through the Albers School of Business at Seattle University.  As an MBA student at SU, I had taken the course before.  It was quite an honor to return to the Dolomites as a facilitator.  The first time around, due to unfortunate circumstances, the class did not have the opportunity to summit the Schlern.  On this trip, we made it to the top and I learned a few things about myself that resonated for both personal and professional reasons.

This year, as we set out to hike up the mountain, the rain turned to snow and we found ourselves trudging up the mountain paths in less than optimal conditions.  I was leading the group and while I had made this part of the journey before, the snow made the trail nearly invisible.  At one point, we made it to what is normally an area where water flows down the rocks and must be traversed carefully.

The path ahead was completely obscured by the snow.  I remembered this place from my previous trip, but couldn’t remember how we’d crossed and couldn’t see the trail for clues on which direction to go.  I started leading the group up the rocks rather than simply across.  This proved nearly impossible and I was struggling for direction.  I was also frustrated with myself for not knowing the answer, the easy way to help the group.  Finally, one of the students with rock climbing experience made it up the rocks and found the trail was down below. We were able to correct the mistake, but I felt foolish for taking several students up rather than simply across.  I had failed to see the “easy” though obscured way, and instead set out trying to conquer what felt impossible.  Later, these same students thanked me for the adventure, but I could not forgive myself nor could I shake the feeling of failure.

In hindsight, there are lots of lessons in this moment.  We too often fail to see the adventure that comes from taking the harder option. We too often hold ourselves to an unfair standard and even when reassured others didn’t see the fault and can give us grace, we fail to give ourselves the same grace.  Too often, we think we need to get to the top on our own and don’t operate as a team, to simply acknowledge our faults and failures, and express gratitude for the member of the team that saved the day.  In reality, we were all in it together, and each of the students I was leading had nearly the same experience hiking this trail as I did, especially in the snow covered landscape we found ourselves in that day.  In reality, each member of the team should get to have their time in the lime light, their moment of glory.  In reality, our successes aren’t usually our own alone, but rather the compilation of many pieces.  We got to the top together and no one saw me as lesser for stumbling, but rather I became more human that day.  Hopefully that is a lesson that sticks – in my stumbling and vulnerability, I am truly one of the team and that is leadership, too.