Reflections Part III – Leadership When It Matters
The story within the story
Welcome to the final blog in the Reflections Series from my trip to Mt. Rainier. The first blog is related to Pursuing Goals, and the second focuses on Connectivity and Networking. To complete the series, I am going to talk about leadership. But, first, I want to take a moment to thank Freddy Clark for allowing me to share my observations with you.
Freddy is a friend of mine, and a fantastic photographer. He is an accomplished beverage and food photographer and equally capable as a landscape photographer and incredible teacher. Freddy was to co-lead the Mt. Rainier workshop with another friend, Rick Sammon. Rick is a Canon “Explorer of Light,” respected and well known in the photography community, and an accomplished instructor in his own right. The way I would put it is, Rick was the main attraction for the workshop, working with a very capable co-star in Freddy.
Unfortunately, the morning before the workshop began, Rick fell and broke his ankle and leg while on a pre-shoot scouting mission. Rick is on the road to recovery and doing well. Perhaps that is a topic on resiliency for another day. This is a blog about leadership and rising to the moment when the moment mattered most.
The workshop must go on!
As you might expect, people felt very bad for Rick, but at the same time, they were wondering just who this guy Freddy is. While he may be a great food and beverage photographer, what does he know about landscape photography? Hearing the news about Rick’s leg, the group’s mood was a concern for Rick. After all, Freddy is a friend of Rick’s. They were co-leading the event, so let’s see where it goes, what he knows, and make the most of it.
When I asked Freddy about the experience a few weeks later, he shared that he was both confident and nervous at the same time. His confidence resulted from his preparation. The nervousness came from realizing he is not Rick and he can’t be Rick. But, he can be Freddy, and he was prepared to do his best to make it an excellent experience for everyone.
Breaking it down
As the next few days unfolded, I focused primarily on getting my images of the mountain. But, as a coach, I also focused on how the group came together to support one another under Freddy’s leadership. We all were able to get fantastic images. We helped each other by sharing what we were doing and seeing, and most importantly, having fun. We were able to accomplish this because we were like-minded people with common goals who worked together as a team.
Freddy, as the leader, exhibited several characteristics of leadership critical to success. The first was situational awareness. He focused on getting to know each participant, their skill level, and their communication styles. Freddy was equally adept at managing each of these styles and keeping everyone balanced. As we all can appreciate, when you are up early, the weather is iffy, and the clouds hide the mountain; people, including this author, can get a little cranky. Maybe even a bit impatient.
Freddy did an outstanding job of “reading the room,” keeping us challenged and focused on our goals for the workshop. He could tell when people were getting tired, frustrated, or needed a break. He had planned strategically for the trip and seamlessly re-calibrated the plan and got us moving in the right direction.
He made it a point to engage with everyone and make sure we had everything we needed. He recognized that there were many accomplished photographers on the trip. He delegated effectively in leveraging the group’s skills to drive the learning and enrich the experience for everyone.
When the trip began and word of Rick’s accident circulated among the group, there was a fair amount of concern for Rick and the overall impact on the trip. One participant put it this way “I came here to learn from Rick, I am not sure what I can learn from just a beverage photographer.” I, for one, learned a great deal, as did the others.
As a photographer, I learned about composition, lighting, angles, and how to maximize the equipment I had with me. I also learned how to push the limits of my post-processing skills. I have shared and continue to share the results in the images accompanying this blog series.
As a coach, I saw a leader rise to the challenge of doing the work of two people over 4 1/2 very long days. Freddy was successful because he was prepared, self-aware, practiced situational awareness, and effectively delegated to others to keep us on track. Let’s not forget while he is not Rick Sammon; he is Freddy Clark. A very talented and passionate photographer.
In my work with clients, I often help them explore challenges and new opportunities in front of them. So many have said it, but I attribute what comes next to my reading of Viktor Frankl. In life, the only thing we can control as events unfold around us is our reaction and response to them.
We, as participants, made the most of the situation to finally be outside staying in a local motel, in a town with four restaurants, all in the name of taking pictures. We were open to the experience and getting to know one another and Freddy Clark. Freddy had been planning this workshop since the Spring of 2019, been delayed for nine months, and he was ready. He leaned into, no dove into the challenge, and led us to an amazing outcome.
What challenges or opportunities are on your horizon? If you feel stuck or want some help exploring your options, I am happy to help. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the rest of the summer.