Leadership Theory and Practice

  • Review of leadership theories
  • Learning to be a leader
  • Understanding group needs
  • Stages of group development
  • Styles of group leadership
  • Situational leadership
  • Another leadership theory
  • Power and influence
  • Leadership ethics
  • Delegation
  • Facilitation of outdoor groups
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Building the confidence of individuals and the group
  • Problem solving
  • Practical action list for bushwalking leaders

Throughout the twentieth century philosophers and behavioural scientists invested a great deal of effort into expanding our knowledge and understanding of the subject of leadership. We now know much more about how a leader should act in a rangfe of circumstances, but we still do not have sharply defined rules for every possible situation. Like all other elements of human behaviour, the lines are rarely straight and the borders are often blurred. What we have is a box of tools that can be used to to seek an understanding of many of the situations which confront the leaders of outdoor adventure groups. Part 7 aims to give a basic understanding of a selection of those leadership tools. These chapters cover some theory, some philosophy and some practical advice for the management of groups in the outdoors.

The content of the chapters is summarised here to show the progression from theory to practical application.

Chapter 43 briefly reviews the contributions made by various writers to the development of our understanding of the factors and processes involved in leadership of groups.

Chapter 44 covers some of the personal skills, attributes and understandings that are fundamental to becoming a capable leader.

Chapter 45 looks at some very useful models which illustrate aspects of the needs of the participants in outdoor adventure groups.

Chapter 46 presents a model by Tuckman (1965) which describes how groups develop over a period of time. It is especially useful as a guide to understanding the behaviours in a group of unrelated people who come together to undertake an activity or task which extends over several days or longer. Some of the typical behaviours may also be observed in a much shorter time frame if one or more members of the group have a strong sense of ownership of some aspect of the task.

Chapter 47 looks at leadership styles that apply to a range of different situations and notes the broad selection of terms used by different authors to describe these styles.

Chapter 48 covers a model devised by Hersey and Blanchard (1974, 1982(a) and (b)) which describes four stages in the development of individual members of an organisation or group and the leadership approaches appropriate at each of those stages. This model is particularly well suited to leadership in the corporate environment and also to recreational activities with a high measure of personal skills. It can be useful in examining leader - group interaction in a group where all members are at nearly the same level of development in skills and confidence.

Chapter 49 examines a theory that illustrates the way in which the behavioural expectations of group members can and do impact upon the style and behaviour of the leader in varying circumstances. This concept can be quite important for leaders who are not big, strong, adult males.

Chapters 50 and 51 deal with some philosophical concepts which have significant practical application for the outdoor leader. Power is a potentially dangerous force which needs to be understood by leaders. Everyone agrees that we must have ethical standards but how can we be sure that they are consistently and fairly applied? Delegation of authority is not always as easy as it sounds. Chapter 52 gives useful advice on when and how to use it.

Chapters 54 to 56 offer a range of effective, practical techniques for dealing with some of the most commonly encountered difficulties which confront outdoor leaders. Chapter 57 is a checklist of actions which a careful leader might use in preparing for and conducting trips.

Leaders of outdoor adventure groups need technical skills, human understanding and field experience. These three elements interact to a very high degree, and if balanced well can produce a leader of outstanding quality and ability.


Tuckman B. W. 1965. Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin63(6), 384–399.

Hersey P & Blanchard K H. 1974. So you want to know your leadership style? Training And Development Journal,2, 1–15.

Hersey P & Blanchard K H 1982(a). Management of Organisational Behaviour: Utilizing Human Resources 4thed Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Hersey P & Blanchard K H 1982(b). Grid Principles and Situationalism: Both! A Response to Blake and Mouton. Group and Organizational Studies6,207–210.