Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries
From Crossing a Stream to Designing Stream Crossings: Leadership Lessons from the Mountains and the Meeting Room
Leanne H. Roulson
I came of age when women were wearing shoulder pads under the new suits that were supposed to make us look like we meant business. Lots of messages in print media (because social media did not yet exist) told women that they needed to be like men to succeed as a professional. So, the summer when I arrived in Lander, Wyoming for a 32-day wilderness mountaineering course, I felt some pressure to be like one of the guys. There would be 16 of us on the course, and I was the lone female and the youngest student.
When I arrived, no fewer than three female staff at the course headquarters asked me if I really wanted to go out in the wilderness in that situation. My thoughts on this were that if I had been concerned, I would have opted out before traveling the 1,500+ miles from Louisiana. The course was excellent, and the men were great and treated me like any other member.
However, one day we had to cross a boulder-strewn creek wearing very heavy backpacks. The creek was high but not unpassable to wade, although it would definitely be faster to jump from boulder to boulder. Did I mention that I was also the shortest person in the group!
The jump looked a lot more like a significant leap to me. One by one the 15 men all chose to jump. I was convinced that I would not make it. No one offered to take my pack for me, and I did not expect them to. I sat down, took off my boots, put my socks up high on my pack where they would stay dry and waded across the thigh-deep water. It took me just a little longer, and there were some eye rolls. The roar of the water meant that at least I did not hear anyone give me any grief. Once across, I put my boots back on, we all reshouldered our backpacks, and we hiked on. I felt kind of like a loser, but I did not think about it much more until the course was over and I was sitting with the three instructors, going over my course performance review. They said that I demonstrated exceptional backbone at that crossing and throughout the course, and they admired me for it. So much so that they recommended I take the instructor’s course and come to work for the school. I became an instructor a few years later and went on to lead courses in Wyoming and Alaska.