Leading Through the Unplanned



One of the key tenets of putting together an expedition or outdoor adventure of any sort is the anticipation (within a reasonable range) of the unexpected. Planning for the unplanned is a skill heavily leaned upon by those who lead in the outdoors.   

Let's break this down a bit...  at AML, we identify three primary learning environments that participants experience during their custom crafted adventure with us- Wilderness, Adventure, and Community. Each of these environments, or contexts, is chock-full of variables. In the Wilderness we have the variables of terrain conditions, weather, flora, and fauna just to name a few. Adventure provides a spectrum of "stress" ranging from non-existent to appropriately challenging to beyond beneficial for personal growth. And in the learning environment of Community, a group's dynamic is nearly always in flux. It is easy to understand why no two of our programs are identical when you consider the endless combination of variables that come together in just these three learning environments.

So how do we face the challenge of planning for such a dynamic process? For the scope of this post, and at the risk of oversimplifying it, we expect for the details of our plans to change. Short of our values, mission, and program framework, we willingly accept that the details of each group's experience are subject to alteration depending upon real life conditions. In fact, preserving larger group goals and organizational values and mission is often dependent on moment by moment flexibility.

Our instructors practice this balance with each group we serve- with the ultimate aim of coaching participants in exactly the same orientation towards uncertainty. It is a learning process whereby uncertainty looses its menacing and anxiety inducing qualities because it becomes regular... commonplace. Because in reality (even outside of the context of an expedition), that is how it is.

Sure, we like to think that life's details are orderly and predictable, and to varying degrees it actually is for some of us. But the truth is that in order to be effective leaders in our communities, schools, churches, and workplaces we need to have a tolerance for uncertainty. The combinations of variables in any real world community necessitate that we be prepared for the unplanned... that we not seize up when the order of our specific plans becomes compromised. 

Effective leaders (leaders intent on serving their communities well) are willing to lean in to the unexpected, anticipate scenarios outside of the main plan, and reroute the path to success. Short of compromising their core values and ultimate objectives, the servant leader is willing to sacrifice a generous range of details- because faithfulness to core values and ultimate objectives/mission is ultimately what defines success for a group.

So... can you think of details in your plans have you been stubborn to give up on for the sake of core values or greater mission? How might a greater tolerance for uncertainty change the way in you serve others through your leadership?