Three leadership lessons at tent rocks

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

My view from Veterans' Memorial Overlook at Tent Rocks, NM

This article originally was published in Forbes. See it here.

About 45 minutes south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, there’s a National Monument called Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks. This is a must-see if you’re ever in Santa Fe, highly worth the drive for a bucket-list experience.

My husband and I ventured out on a recent vacation because we wanted the dual benefit of a good workout and exploring something new. The area consists of two hiking trails: One is a short and easy one-mile loop at the base, while the other is a significantly more challenging three-mile (round trip) slot canyon hike with a steep, 630-foot climb and rewarding views. We went for the slot canyon hike.

The hike begins easily, but progressively gets more intense. About two-thirds of the way in, you can only proceed by employing all limbs to ascend. The trail is narrow, and with traffic moving in both directions, everyone has to take turns going up and down.

And this is where I learned three powerful leadership lessons.

Lesson 1: Pave the way for others

Words can't adequately describe the spectacular reward one receives from that climb to the summit. Pictures don’t do it justice. It is breathtaking and soul-cleansing.

Once you’ve soaked it in, you start your descent back the way you came. As we were climbing up, total strangers on their way back down would throw out encouragement, saying, “This is the hardest part!” or “You’re almost there!” or even “It’s so worth it!” as we clawed our way up.

I was struck by this. Though they didn’t even know us, they encouraged us to keep going. They had been on that path before us, and they wanted us to know it was possible, and that our efforts would pay off.

That got me thinking: Why is it so easy for total strangers to offer encouragement to their fellow climbers, but we can’t seem to consistently do this with our own coworkers? Why don't more women who have had to claw their way up in a system rigged against them take more time to encourage those who are still climbing?

What would happen if every one of us who have reached a summit would offer tips and encouragement to those who are still on the path? What’s one thing you, as a leader, could do next week that would start to change this?

Lesson 2: Yield to the ones who are more challenged