When Carrollton City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Albertus holds district meetings, the first item on every agenda is “Leadership Lesson.” The lessons sometimes are about current events or reflections from leaders in unrelated fields that have universal application or, on occasion, a personal experience.
At his most recent meeting, he did just that. In July, he, his son Josh, and Josh’s girlfriend Ally made a remarkable trek called a Presidential Traverse, a strenuous hike over the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Hikers climb all of the mountains in the Presidential Range in one continuous hike that’s nearly 23 miles long with close to 9,000 feet of elevation gain. Most complete the task in one very long day.
In a presentation that included screenshots of amusing text message exchanges and breathtaking landscapes of the mountains named for presidents, Albertus shared new lessons he learned from the experience and confirmation of old ones.
LESSON ONE: Know what you’re training for. Albertus said he prepared for the trip by taking long hikes at home carrying a heavy pack on his back. He conceded this didn’t properly train him for the rough, rocky terrain that is a signature of the traverse and proved to be the most challenging part of the trek.
LESSON TWO: Albertus said the old military mantra “pack light, freeze at night,” came into play on the trip even though they didn’t camp overnight. The temperature difference at Mt. Washington alone was 55 degrees at the summit and 85 degrees at the base of the mountain – at the same time. In July, temperatures at night are near freezing. They prepared for the unpredictable weather as a result by carrying more gear in their packs. “It is better to have and not need than to need and not have,” he said.
LESSON THREE: Never tell your wife “All is Lost.” The message here referred to a text he sent to his wife Rebecca as a joke when he “hit a wall” on the hike and had to take a rest. As soon as he sent it, however, he lost cell service, leaving his wife in an unnecessarily fretful state until service was restored.
LESSON FOUR: Change your socks. This is anothermilitary mantra but also is a common tenet of experienced hikers. Albertus said changing your socks not only keeps your feet healthy, but your disposition as well. Albertus noted he tells his children to “change your socks” often to keep them focused and intentional.
Albertus on many occasions has told his leadership team that lessons can be found in most experiences – good or bad.
“This is the key to leadership growth,” he said. “Taking time to review a situation allows you to reflect on how it could have been better – or worse – teaching you to adjust accordingly. Even the experiences of one day-long hike can make a lifetime impact.