In most areas of my life, I’m a leader. When I volunteer, I usually have new ideas, or help organize others and work alongside them. I am the founder and CEO of two companies. Usually, I’m the one coming up with ways of how things should be done, and then implementing them. Yet, when I hike, I love to follow. Okay, not always, just when hiking the big 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado.
My friend Jayne has summited thirty mountains over 14,000 feet. I would call her an expert. She loves taking people up their first massive peak, too. She is super gracious and has no need to prove anything. Well, except that she wants to “bag” another peak. Jayne is amazing, and I love following her lead. When I say lead, I really mean “serve.”
Hiking at high altitudes has some unique challenges. You can’t have an ego, and you must respect the mountain. The cool thing about Jayne is that she’s always willing to be the last one up, staying with anyone who is slow. Recently we decided to join up with a hiking group as they were going to summit Mt. Sherman, a 14,036-foot climb. I had already hiked it with one of my daughters six years earlier, yet wanted to go with Jayne. I had been relatively inactive for three weeks as a result of a double ankle sprain that happened when hiking with Jayne. We were taking a different route from the base than when I had gone before.
Early on I began struggling, yet Jayne, no matter what, would not go ahead. She insisted on staying with me. And I was slow. I frequently had to stop to try and catch my breathe. I’m not a fast altitude hiker, yet on this particular day I was especially slow. For two-thirds of the ascent, Jayne was especially patient and encouraging. That’s how long it took me to get into a rhythm. I know on that particular day that if it hadn’t been for Jayne leading, I wouldn’t have made it. I loved knowing that she was watching the weather, keeping an eye out for fast-moving thunderstorms. All I needed to do was keep going.
Upon reaching the summit, Jayne was as thrilled for me as she was for herself. She made sure that those in our group signed our name to the paper at the top, tucked it into its safe spot, continued to hydrate ourselves, and grabbed something to eat, and then she led us safely down the mountain. When I began getting tired close to the end, she was perky and positive.
When recapping and telling others about our ascent, not once did she indicate that I was the one that slowed us. She’s phenomenal. She’s a true leader, a dear friend, and a servant. Who wouldn’t want to follow that?!
Here is what strength, dignity, and grace look like when following.
Strength – Know when someone else is more qualified to lead, and step aside.
Dignity – Don’t allow your ego to overcome what is best in some circumstances.
Grace – Be gracious and allow others to shine and excel. Don’t think less of yourself just because someone is more talented and skilled.
When are times that you have found yourself either following or leading, that is not the norm for you?