Photo of Chañi by gonzalo_max18, Available at ImageShack.us
David was one of my best friends during my years in Argentina. I didn’t get to see him often, because he worked in a different and distant province. I consider David my mentor in anything having to do with the great outdoors. He taught me all about climbing and hiking. While we never had any thumbs and toes freeze and fall off, we did have our share of adventures.
We climbed Mount Chirripó, in Costa Rica, twice and Mount Chañi in Jujuy, Argentina, once. While the climb required no specialized equipment like harnesses, ropes, or crampons, we nevertheless had to make sure we were adequately equipped.
For our first trip in Costa Rica, I was a complete novice, so David had to instruct me. He encouraged me to get good boots because they are the climber’s most important piece of equipment. He also told me about down-filled sleeping bags that were good for 30 below zero and isobutane fuel canisters for cooking.
Then there was the food. The main concern when packing for a long hike-particularly if the hike is up hill-is weight. “Pack light,” David said. Dried fruit was one kind of food allowed. So, David taught me how to build a fruit dryer out of a metal screen, wood, and an electric heat plate. Since we were in Costa Rica-one of my all-time favorite places in the world-we had access to all types of tropical fruit. We had bananas that tasted like real bananas. We had mangoes-not the hard green ones you see in grocery stores in the states, but big juicy delicious mangoes that caused saliva to gather on the insides of your tingling jaws in anticipation as you peeled back the orange-yellow skin. We had a little fruit called a nispero. We had luscious orange papayas-they were my favorite when dried. The pineapple was out of this world. Then there was the fresh white coconut that we would cut into quarter-inch squares and eat like candy. We dried the fruit and cut them into pieces that were light and-more importantly as far as I am concerned-tasted like candy!
David also helped me prepare for the climb by convincing me to run with him every morning. He was a real slave driver too. I was always trying to keep pace with him. He gave me tips about how to put a thin synthetic sock inside a thicker wool or cotton sock to avoid blisters as we ran and climbed.
But David was not just a good mentor because he helped me gather the right equipment or because he helped me prepare my own body for the physical exertion. Most importantly, David also equipped the spirit. He was always saying, “You can do it.” I will never forget the climb up Chirripó as the path wound its way upward through the rainforest where we could never see more than about ten or twenty feet ahead. I was getting exhausted and wanting to just sit down and moan. David, however, kept saying those magical words: “The peak is just around the corner.”
Great leadership has always been about equipping others for success. It’s about teaching your hiking disciple the kind of boots they will need to make the trip. Leather may not be the best choice because, while durable, it adds a lot of weight to your legs, so you may want to choose a hiker’s tennis shoe. It’s also about providing helpful information such as a map showing the route you will take to get to the mountain peak. It’s about training. It shows you how to perform the skills necessary to complete the task, as when David showed me how to pack my backpack as tightly as possible. It’s also about spirit, as when David continuously worked to persuade me that I could do it. It’s like enjoying something so thoroughly that you want others to experience it as well. David was perfectly capable of climbing and hiking on his own, but he wanted to share the experience so he equipped me to go with him.
- Equipping Leaders do things to encourage forth the potential hidden in others.
- They provide the vital information that is needed for success.
- They help others acquire the resources they will need for success.
- They help them develop the skills they will need to be successful.
- They encourage the heart as their followers face the challenges of learning and growing.
Equipping leaders turn mere aspirations into reality. If I had not met my friend David, my dream of climbing a mountain may have forever remained just that, a dream. But David trained me, helped me acquire the needed resources, and provided tons of information. This is why I can say today, “I climbed Chirripó and I climbed Chañi.” How many members of your organization have dreams of doing something great, dreams they may never have shared with anyone? How many are holding back because they lack the skills and they do not know where to get them? How many just lack information to turn their dream into a real project? When an organization changes its perspective from a provider of services to that of an equipper of servants, then it might just wake its own sleeping giant of inspired, world transforming, leaders.
What do you thing? Do you have a story of mentoring you could share? Do you agree that organizations need more of these kinds of leaders?