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Backpackers at Sunset

Backpackers on a ridge at sunsett

Followership for Outdoor Adventures

No sheep image refering to followership for outdoor adventuresIn the outdoor education and recreation field we often speak of leadership, but far less often about followership. This might be a mistake. Our programs are conducted for the benefit of participants, and how these “followers” interact with designated leaders or instructors if critical to program outcomes and safety.

In the brief attached article “No Sheepies Here: Followership for Outdoor Adventures,” Brenda Porter, Director of Education for the Colorado Mountain Club, delves into what constitutes an ideal follower role for her organization’s activities. This article does a effective  job of defining the follower role in an outdoor club or mountain club environment. (The article uses references to the new edition of my book, the AMC Guide to Outdoor Leadership, to make several points, but I don't think that biases my perspective.)

The ideal outdoor “follower” role varies based on the program’s mission, the activities involved, and the capabilities (and age) of the followers. Personalities of both leaders and followers will  have significant impact and result in variations on a trip by trip basis. On most extended trips the followers involvement will increase as they build up their skills.

What does the ideal follower role look like in your organization? If this something you discuss within your organization and, perhaps most importantly, is the preferred roll of followers something you share with your program participants? A lack of clarity on participant roles can lead to leader-follower conflict and, as Brenda points out in the article, result in overlooked safety issues.

The “No Sheepies Here” article is shared with permission from the Spring 2011 issue of Trail and Timberline, the magazine of the Colorado Mountain Club. Download the followership article here (PDF file).

Posted by

Alex Kosseff

on 4/4/11
Field SafetyOutdoor LeadershipResource


As a manager of an outdoor company, I look forward to reading this article. Thank you and please keep posting articles like this.

By Matt the Ocoee River Guide on 05/11/2011 at 08:12 PM

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