Leadership Lessons From Whitewater Rafting

I had the privilege of taking several members of my school’s leadership team to the U.S. National Whitewater Center about a month ago. After exhausting ourselves by embarking on adventures such as high-ropes courses, canyon-crossing zip-lines, and category 4 whitewater rapids, we decided to relax by watching other teams attempt to navigate the most challenging rapids: a quick drop into churning water that forces the raft to turn left just before a severe drop over the largest rapid in the complex.

Rafting expedition in Colorado

Image by Wesley Fryer

We laughed, joked, and, occasionally, cringed with one another as people fell out of their rafts. As the last wave of rafts came through, I noticed a small boy – perhaps 6 or 7 years old – at the front of the raft. There was a man with him at the front that I assume was his father. If you are not familiar with rafting, the strongest team members are usually placed at the front to determine the pace for the rest of the raft. It is also the place in the raft where one is most likely to get thrown-out headfirst into the rapids. So, while it is a place of honor, it is also a risky place to be.

Why You Need A Guide

You’re constantly going through new experiences, struggles, and trials. Sometimes you’ll feel fear, frustration, anxiousness.

You may know where you want to go but you don’t know the path. Ever been there?

Whitewater Rafting

Image by David Berkowitz

I have. Multiple times.

Not knowing what the path holds. The dangers. The pain. The frustration.

We never know what’s coming on the new paths that we’re taking.

But others have gone before us. They’ve blazed a trail. They know the way!

If you’ve ever been whitewater rafting, you know this to be true.

You’re ushered onto a raft and set off into the rushing river. But you’re not alone.

The guide is on the back of the raft. He’s been on the river multiple times. He knows it like the back of his hand.