Spending a week at Philmont Scout Ranch is sort of like the ultimate right of passage for a boy scout . . . hiking long distances over challenging terrain in the New Mexico mountains . . . carrying everything you need on your back. Great care is taken to inform the young adventurers (and their chaperones) what will and will not be needed for the journey to keep their backpacks from getting too heavy. Once they arrive at camp, their packs are unloaded and experienced guides tell them which “essentials” they really don’t need. And while I haven’t actually been to Philmont, I’ve been told that the trails are littered with new camping gear that was discarded when hikers’ packs weighed them down along the way. One of my favorite pictures from when my son went to Philmont is shot from behind. You see his legs, his hulking backpack, and nothing else.
Ever feel like that as a leader? The responsibilities, expectations, goals, aspirations, commitment to mission, recognition of need (the list goes on) that leaders carry around on their backs can get pretty heavy. Sure we are initially proud of how much we can fit into our leadership backpacks . . . found a little extra space here, so I can fit in one more thing . . . but when you are at the bottom of a mountain looking at the climb ahead, that pack on your back can suddenly feel unbearably heavy. At that point, you have two options — a stronger back or a lighter load.
As a leader, you are likely stronger than you think, and by putting one foot in front of the other, you just might be amazed at how far you can go (your pack weighs just as much when you’re standing still commiserating about your situation as it does when you choose to forge ahead). For all but the most seasoned leaders, however, there are probably also ways you can lighten your load.
What can you delegate, and in so doing provide an emerging leader the chance to more fully develop their skills? Sure, they might stumble, but with a lighter load you’ll be able to steady them and send them on their way.
How much dead weight in the form of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve are you carrying around? Dump it.
How much of other people’s “stuff” have you allowed to be piled onto your pack? Hand it back to them. It’s not your stuff.
When you lighten your leadership backpack, and only carry the essentials, you have the energy to look toward the peaks, notice the amazing vistas along the way, and enjoy the journey. What’s in your pack?