I recently completed an extraordinary trek with a group of Wharton MBAs and world-class guides from the Vertical guide agency (based in Santiago). The trek took place on Isla Navarino, a rarely visited island that lies just south of Tierra del Fuego. It's the land closest to the Antarctic continent.
Traveling through some really tough terrain that included long and difficult scree slopes, and frequently ascending and descending narrow rocky steps and cliffs (often with icy water running down them), I was amazed at the ability of the group to keep their high spirits intact despite the challenges we faced. Rain, hail, snow, sunshine, howling wind - all were mixed together at any moment. Well, as they say, it is Patagonia.
This trip made me think about what it takes to be a good follower. The MBAs were responsible for route-finding for their small teams, and as an "observer" on the trip I had to watch and wait as they made their measurements and planned their routes through the wilderness. I think that the willingness to follow others during such an experience requires perseverance (the days are long and challenging), a measure of courage (the traverses and rock steps can test the strongest will), and faith (that others will lead you in the right direction). Faith that, as trust built over the experience, eventually became confidence (as British sociologist Anthony Giddens has suggested). Other participants noted two other important qualities of followers in such challenging situations -- humor (to dispel gloom or fear), and humility (one quickly realizes how small and insignificant one is in such a wild landscape) .
Expeditions are indeed a rare opportunity to step back from external pressures and experience life and nature in all its majesty -- in the wild, no beaten paths, no destination other than the one you choose to take. One of the MBA venture fellows, Lorenz Kazda, told me how much this expedition meant to him: "The lessons from this experience are imprinted in your mind."