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Decision Making and Leadership Styles

This is an excerpt from Outdoor Leadership 3rd Edition With HKPropel Access by Bruce Martin,Mary Breunig,Mark Wagstaff & Marni A. Goldenberg.

An outdoor leader’s approach to making decisions may depend on the leadership style used (i.e., abdicratic, democratic, or autocratic) and the situational variables. In an emergency in which a person is both the leader and the expert, that person will be required to use good judgment to make timely decisions. If an individual is the course instructor and the situational variables are not complex, that person may make very few decisions as the formal leader of the group, opting for a more participatory decision-making approach.

Additionally, the methods and models of decision making used will depend on an individual’s past successes and failures with them as well as cultural influences, as mentioned throughout this chapter. Consider this concept as it relates to ­leadership style. When novice leaders are presented with a challenging wilderness trip environment, they may adopt an autocratic leadership style to attempt to gain greater perceived control. The novice leader needs to adopt a leadership style appropriate to the situation and level of conditional favorability and weigh leadership experience as one factor against a backdrop of many.

Past successes and failures relate to the decision-making process as well. It is common for a leader who made a decision that resulted in a negative outcome to adopt a leadership style and decision-making process that is more conservative than the next situation demands. This is, of course, human nature. However, it is important to not overreact by adopting an overly autocratic decision-making style. For example, Kai has just returned from a sea-kayaking trip in the Rossport Islands on Lake Superior. A boat overturned on that trip, in part because of Kai’s decision to do an open-water crossing in windy conditions. As a result, a participant came down with mild hypothermia and declared that she would never take a trip with the agency again. Kai is scheduled to go on another trip to Rossport Islands in two days. During the posttrip debrief, he was strongly chastised by one of the company’s administrators for his poor judgment and decision making. He feels a sense of dread about the upcoming trip and suggests to his coleader that the group may benefit from doing day trips from a base camp on Wilson Island instead of traveling to some of the outer islands. Now read Learning Activity 7.3 and answer the questions.

A leader’s decision-making ability will mature alongside their overall leadership ability. It is important to be attentive to the outcomes of previous decisions and to try to recognize any patterns that may be developing as a result of past successes and failures. It is equally important, however, to not be paralyzed by some of the negative outcomes of past decisions. This form of experience-based judgment will develop with practice.

Learning Activity 7.3

Using the Rossport Islands example, answer the following questions. Is doing day trips from a base camp on Wilson Island the most appropriate decision for the group? Why or why not? What are some of the considerations guiding that decision?

More Excerpts From Outdoor Leadership 3rd Edition With HKPropel Access