Cultivating Leadership Qualities

Anant Rohmetra

In order to cultivate leadership qualities among students, to hone their skills and to make them self-dependent, a leadership course was organized at West McDonnell National Park from July 15 – July 25.

The course included activities like quiet time, comes talks, abseiling, swimming through the gorge and the 48hrs solo. These activities involved physical involvement which came up to be challenging. It had decent sized distances to be hiked during the course.
Planning and Management
The course teaches skills such as map orientation, map reading, management and planning. Two students are on the M-team each day and they play the role of leaders by managing the routes, motivating the team, managing time and the activities of the day. Everything works under the leadership of the M-team. The other students even give worthy inputs from the team. The M-team briefs the participants night before about the following day by apprising them about the terrain which will be witnessed, the distance to be travelled, the timings of the general activities, the physical features to be witnessed and about other activities like comes talks and breaks during the hike. The essential job of the M-team is to guide the team through the path during the day and to keep everybody together.
Personal Responsibilities and Development
The students were given certain leadership responsibilities which included working in CHEF groups, carrying the group gear, etc. A personal journal was maintained by the students in which students penned down their personal experiences, their perspective regarding the experience and even drew in it during the quiet time. The journal also worked as a self-reflecting text book which included pictures of priceless moments and adventures. Quiet time was the time in which the students used to sit in an isolated environment for a while. The student used the time for self-reflection, introspection, rights and wrongs of life and the camp. The students were also told to set short, medium and long-term goals and to prepare for comes talks. For the comes talk the student was asked to share a personal experience with the team. We were asked to talk about our favourite place in nature which varied from a racing track to a garden and for the second comes talk we were asked to talk about our personal encounter with L.I.F.E(L-lesson, I-ideal, F-feeling, E-expression). The comes talks focused more on delivery which includes body language, stance, voice modulation, dramatic pauses and facial expressions rather than the content of the speech. This helped to gain confidence to open up in front of a decent sized audience. The students also learnt the importance to respect others, nature and above ourselves. The students acknowledged the importance of helping peers at different stages.
Group Responsibilities and Development
The group journal was a common journal for the group which included information regarding the route, different stops, the path of the gorge, various drawings and even information about the flora and fauna which were spotted during the journey. The journal was open to the group for drawing or adding any information. The group journal also acted as a guide for C.H.E.F groups, routes and different activities. The course offered several leadership opportunities to the students at many points such as while passing through the gorge and abseiling. Students took up initiative of helping each other with passing bags, setting up lie lows and ropes for the abseil. The students involved themselves in productive conversations which included the discussion about inhuman activities such as improper use of resources and how the environment is being harmed by certain activities. During the course, the teachers used to approach the students to discuss with them their goals and their thoughts on leadership. In order to spread a healthy environment some fun activities were during the course.
Using Sustainable Environmental Practice
It was very necessary to ensure that the environment must not be affected. So, throughout the course it was ensured by taking small steps such as healthy toileting practices, controlling the fire size to prevent forest fire, segregating rubbish, using suitable disposing techniques and keeping distance from the wild life. Some measures like controlling noise pollution, carrying rubbish to the camp site and burning bio-degradable waste were also practiced. From time to time, we were reminded by the teachers to respect the place we are in and to maintain the decorum.
Environmental Observation
While walking, the students observed pre-established paths which were followed. There were footprints in the middle of the hills which indicated that humans are making a difference in the natural habitat of the place. The established camp sites and the fire pit also acted as a marked human territory. The camp sites were established in such a manner which helped preventing wild fire and minimized the effect on the regional flora and fauna. A recent wide spread wild fire was observed during the hike as at different places the students observed severely burnt buffalo grass and spinifex. There were ashes at different places. The fire had a bad effect on the terrain. The students could not witness a large variety of wild animals. But the students spotted wild lizards, wild spiders and a wild dingus. During the course the students encountered a large number of flies as expected
Other Cultural perspective
Speaking about my perspective, being an exchange from India, the terrain and the sites were unimaginably different for me. Such a camp was experienced by me for the first time. The experience was enlightening whether we talked about the 48hr solo or the hard walks with the bag packs during the day hours with the bright sun over. Sleeping under a roof made up of stars was completely majestic. Going through the ice-cold water of the gorge on the lye lows was a life time experience. The abseil helped to encounter fear, the fear of height. The quiet time helped us to know ourselves better. The activities like comes talks helped me to open up and to gain confidence. The course in all helped me to build confidence, increased leadership qualities and to improve character.