Leadership (specifically, leading kayak trips) is one of my favorite subjects. You could study it (and practice it) your whole life, and still not come close to mastering it. Why? Well, for one thing, what makes a “good” trip leader in one situation might fail miserably in another situation. For example, barking out orders like you’re leading a group of Boy Scouts might work well when you’re actually leading a group of Boy Scouts, but it is bound to cause problems when you’re leading a group of paddlers who might exceed your own age, or experience, or skill level. Among a typical group of adult kayakers, I have found that “good” leadership is almost invisible: Things just work smoothly, group dynamics are good, and whatever problems arise get solved. When leadership is that good, it looks easy, but it isn’t. Just go on a trip where leadership is poor or lacking and the difference will jump right out at you. A few weeks ago, our club hosted Wayne Horodowich for a presentation on leadership. I’d never seen him speak before, so I had no idea what to expect. But right off the bat I had a good impression when he said something to the effect that the “hard” skills of leadership (paddling skills and techniques for rescues, towing, etc.) are easy to learn while the “soft” skills (i.e.; people skills) are the hard part. That certainly jives with my own experience leading WW and sea kayaking trips. As Wayne mentioned in his talk, most of us get started as trip leaders almost by accident. We get a taste for kayaking and then we decide to share it with someone we know… a significant other or a friend or a family member, and before we have a single clue about what it means to lead a kayak trip, we’re off to the tidal races! That was certainly my own experience back in the early nineties, and thank God it all turned out okay. After you’ve racked up a few hundred (or a few thousand) days on the water, most paddlers learn that things are not so simple, but in the beginning, leading a trip just doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I’ve seen some crazy stuff happen on trips and I know there have been circumstances where my leadership skills were lacking. But I am curious: what is your own experience leading trips? Is leadership something you think about when you organize a trip or invite others to join you on a private paddle? Do you feel prepared for the job? If so, what makes you feel that way? Classes? Paddling experience? Other life experiences? What things have you seen other trip leaders do that you agreed with or disagreed with and what have you learned when you’ve been the leader?