Tips for Outing Leaders
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Leading a Voyageur Hiking Trail group can be a very rewarding experience.
It can be an opportunity to introduce novices to the beauty and serenity of the Northern woods. It can be planned in order to get a specific job done, like measuring or describing a section of trail.
Whatever your intentions might be of leading a group of hikers into the bush, lessons can be taught and learned on each and every trip. It is hoped that this handout will help you plan your outing.
The Four Types of Leaders:
- Autocratic (i.e. military-style leadership) typically likes to lead from the front
- Democratic (i.e. Outward Bound) everything is decided democratically no matter how long it takes
- Abdicratic (i.e. when there is someone else better qualified to lead, possibly because they know the trail better) leader abdicates to someone else but doesn’t actually “give up” the leadership role totally
- Laissez-faire (i.e. very laid back, easy going) when everyone in the group is experienced and knowledgeable
The best type of leader is all four of the above, when each situation calls for it. For example, in cases of emergency, when time and expertise is essential, autocratic leadership is best.
It is not necessary to be out front to lead a group. In fact, you may not know how your group is really doing (i.e. fatigue factors, equipment problems, etc.) if you are far removed from them, either at the front or back.
Tips for your hike
Plan your outing. Have only one focus.
(i.e. if your outing is to see to it that everyone enjoys themselves, then you can’t be concentrating on making it to a certain point on the trail. If your outing’s purpose is to make it to a certain point on the trail, then that is what is important, not whether everyone is having a good time. If your outing is to measure the trail, then you shouldn’t have any other purpose.)
Make sure everyone in your group knows what the purpose is and that it is their purpose. Hidden agendas can hurt an outing.
“Good leadership includes the ability to study planned activities in advance and anticipate any problems or dangers and their possible solutions.” – Paul Petzoldt; founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School
Always plan ahead by asking “Who? Why? What? When? Where?”
Who is participating? Who is leading? Who is organizing? Who has been notified in case of emergency?
Why are the participants here (goals/purpose)? Why are the leaders here?
What is the purpose of the activity? What is the nature of the activity? What equipment/supplies are needed? What is the safety system/contingency plan? What are the transportation arrangements?
When is the activity to start? When is the activity to finish? When are people to meet/make contact?
Where is the activity to start/finish? Where are the emergency escape routes (quicker routes to get help, if any)? Where are the anticipated safety concerns located in the area (e.g. cliffs)?
It is always a good idea to have an idea of the condition of the planned route, so try to go out ahead of time and scout it out, if possible. The trail conditions may be posted on our web site, so pay it a visit, if you can. Knowing the trail ahead of time can help you in the planning process.
Decide if you are okay with dogs on your outing and what any rules are regarding their handling on your outing. (i.e. leashed at lunch, etc.)
Remember that the VTA supports their leaders who make a decision to change or cancel their plans due to unforeseen weather problems or other emergencies. In Northern Ontario, this freedom is imperative for the safety of the group.
Likewise, our leaders have the right to refuse to take someone who is unprepared for the planned outing. Any such person may become a danger to the group and a liability to the outing.