Comprehensive–interaction–expectation theory

Combining the main elements of the Comprehensive model and the Interaction– Expectation model, Jordan proposed the comprehensive–interaction–expectation (CIE) theory of outdoor leadership as shown in Figure 49.2. The model generated by this theory highlights the dynamic nature of the interactions which are constantly taking place during the activity. Each interaction acts as a causal agent impacting on the leader’s style and the group’s recognition, acceptance and reinforcement of leader and group member role behaviours. The leader of the group can move and change their style of leadership to suit the way that the group is behaving, the way the situation is evolving, and the way the interactions within the group are affecting individuals. Flexibility in choice of leadership style according to how your perception of the group and the environment will yield the most effective and safe responses for the group at that time.

An example
The effectiveness of the CIE model in accounting for the outdoor setting, the perceived and real risks in the activity and the extended interaction of the activity can be seen using the example of a sudden and severe rain or hail storm during a weekend bushwalk. If the storm occurs early in the weekend, when the group members expect the leader to be more directive and clear in their interactions with the group, individuals would expect the leader to stop the group and tell them to put on rain gear, to look for shelter, and perhaps to wait for the storm to pass.

Over the weekend, as individuals within the group change their perceptions of the risk of the activity because they are immersed in it, as the extended time gives individuals the chance to interact more with each other and the leader, and as individuals become more comfortable just being in the outdoors, the leader can change his/her style to suit the changing needs of the group.

If the same sudden storm occurred on the second day of the trip, the leader, walking in the middle of the group, might call out ‘hold on’ to the front walkers, and everyone easily understands that rain gear and maybe shelter are needed. Later in a week or two-week long trip, the leader may not need to call out, because the group would be comfortable in the environment and more attuned to their own and each other’s needs, and rain gear would be just put on.

To understand leadership and what makes effective leaders requires you to reflect upon your actions when you are leading, and on the actions of other leaders when you observe them in the field. It is very helpful to consciously focus your mind on the principles underlying any leadership situation. If you choose to examine any incident in this way you will soon improve your ability to make better decisions on a whole range of situations. The example given here may appear to be just simple commonsense. When you consider it in the context of the CIE theory you can also appreciate the logic of each of the behaviours described. When you understand the factors involved you will be able to choose more effective responses which will be more likely to produce the most satisfactory outcome for the total group.