non-technical skills



What does a leader do?

Much has been written about what the purpose of a leader is and also what activities they do that make them effective.

There is no single approach to leadership that will work with every situation, with every team, on every occasion.
Different approaches - aiming to tyake into accoun thte situation and the team - are likely to be effective on different occasions. (see the links for siutational leadership and for the Blake and Mouton managerial grid)

One approach to answer this is to think of a team or group you are in and ask how its effectiveness would be affected without a leader. Team performance and the effectiveness of its leadership are two sides of the same coin (NB use of the wowrd leadership, rather than leader).

In an outdoor setting, and probably in clinical settings to, one can argue that the leader's "job" is to make the team as safe and effective as possible. Outdoor it is about maximjising the safety, enjoyment and development of the group for which the leader is responsible. In a clinical setting the key focus is the best outcome of the casualty/patient.

Sometimes, especially in "routine" situations, a well developed team can operate well without a designated leader. An example of this is a group of competent walks going out for a hiek together, sharing the responsiblity for navigation and assessment of hazards along the way.

In high risk or unusal situations, though, the team may need effective leadership; leadership is most important and most necessary in those circumstances in which it is most difficut and most challenging. One of the consistent findings after something goes wrong is that leadership was absent or ineffective.

An effective leader makes the team more effective
One approach to this is to ensure that all parts of the human factors cycle above are carried out well.
A second, not mutually exclusive, approach is to ensure that all parts of the GRIPS teamwork mnemonic are addressed.

leadership diagram.png
An effective leader decreases the stress felt by team members

Leadership vs management

A great deal has been written on this topic. The diagram below (from the "Very short introduction" recommended book) helps to distunguish leadership from other related activities.


Action centred leadership

Many find the Action Centred Leadership model of Adair a useful one with which to work.

In brief, this reminds leaders to bear in mind: task (getting the job done, reaching a particular peak etc.), developing the team, and developing the individuals.
In practice it is often difficult to achieve all three simultaneously, but if one area is consistently neglected leadership is likley to be less effective.


Tasks of leadership:

Situational leadership

This model considers leadership behaviours as being ralted to task and/or relationship and that the emphasis a leader should put on each is
determined by the readiness of the "follower". Task behaviours include organising, explaining roles and how to accomplish tasks. Relationship behaviours include maintaining relationships, emotional support and active listening. If these behaviours are each split into two, a two by two matrix can be generated with four possibkle combinations of leadership.

situational leadership 2x2.png
Individuals often find they tend to use only one or two of these four styles when leading. The SL model suggests that it is necessary to be able to use any of the quadrants when necessary. The best quadrant to use - in a specific situation with a specific person - is determined by considering the follower's readiness. Readniess is determined by the ability of the follower (for that specific task, not in general) and their confidence & willingess (ditto).

situational leadership follower readiness.png

Leadership styles can be summarised:
HT & LR Telling
HT & HR Selling
LT & HR Participating
LT & LR Delegating


Part of leadership is motivating team members. Actual or potential leaders will find this video on what motivates people useful:

video on role of emotional intelligence in stressful situations

from outdoor leadership:
• Know why you lead.
• Accept that leadership can be lonely.
• Use your heart as well as your head; develop your abilities to sense others' feelings.
• Believe in people. The confidence you have in others will have an effect on how well they do.
• Practise. Work at becoming a better leader no matter how much experience you have.

Leadership from below (video):

Quotations about leadership

No person is fit to command another that cannot command himself.
William Penn

"Don't walk in front of me because I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me because I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend."
Albert Camus

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
John Quincy Adams

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.
Colin Powell

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Antoine de Saint—Exupery


Leadership - Emergency Management Australia
Leadership & influence
Medical Leadership Competency Framework
High performance leadership
Leadership (RGS)
NOLS approach to leadership
Mountain leadership
Fostering student leadership, competence and independence (NOLS)
Interesting article on conformity and leadership
Leadership values
Jim Collins' level 5 leadership
Situational leadership
Situational leadership model in the military
Blake and Mouton managerial grid
Book chapter on leadership that summarises key approaches
Summary of leadership styles
Leadership (from open university)


Leading and Managing Groups in the Outdoors (excellent book)
Shackleton's Way (describes the leadership qualities of Shackleton)
Leadership. Theory and Practice (an pretty academic that reviews the main models of leadership)
Leadership: a very short introduction (academic and not really an introductory text but is very good in parts)