Recently I joined a 16 km river rafting ride in the Ganges. This journey which lasted for around 2 hours, was full of adrenaline rush and subsequent deep insights. There were ten rapids of various intensities throughout the journey.
The one which was of the highest intensity was the one that had a massive impact on all of us. In this rapid, our raft almost overturned, and four out of nine team members fell in the river. It created panic in all of us, resulting in sudden fear of death and concern about the team members who fell into the river. Out of the four fallen members, one lost her grip on the raft’s rope and almost went below the raft.
In this situation, our raft leader Vivek, a seasoned rafter and rescuer, swung into action and rescued all four people in no time. The most impressive thing was how he lifted one of the members back into the raft almost in a reflex action in no time. I was in awe of Vivek’s composure and muscle memory. It was a big relief when I saw all of them back in the boat. Phew.
Vivek’s approach throughout the 2-hour journey and especially during the crises gave me some great insights about the difference a leader with a powerful presence can make.
I am sharing a few of them:
- 1. Prepare the team: Before commencing the journey, he took considerable time to educate everyone on what to expect and how to respond. So, when few people were thrown out due to heavy rapids, we knew exactly what had to be done. In the corporate world too, when a leader doesn’t envisage the potential threats, there are high chances that the team can experience chaos in a crisis.
- 2. Encourage /Support/Guide: Our raft guide Vivek constantly encouraged and directed us with the next steps. This kept us going through thick and thin. More importantly, those timely words of encouragement kept us going and helped us do our best to navigate through the rapids. The insight was that a leader needs to constantly observe the strong points of team members and take out time to acknowledge them (even during crises).
- 3. Kept the cool, especially in the most turbulent time: This is important as the team’s morale /confidence/hope depends on how calm the leader is during the rough time. Our raft leader kept calm and quickly rescued all the four fallen team members. When leaders panic or shout in crises, team members lose confidence and hope.
- 4. Believed in us: Most importantly, he believed in each of us and made us think that we could do it. This may sound like a small thing, but I realized that in a crisis, a small word like” I am sure you can do it” can change the entire response of our teams.
My “aaha moment” came towards the end when he said, ” We take 3 to 4 such rides every day, and almost every time we experience such a situation.”
My aaha insight was… “On deliberate Practice and with a Growth Mindset, Leadership skills too can become a muscle memory.”