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Appalachian Mountain Club 2022 Outdoor Leader Handbook

Outdoor leadership skills can be developed and improved over time through a combination of self-study, formal training and experience. Leadership trainings are offered frequently by volunteers and staff of the AMC. The trainings range from a single day to a weekend. If you are looking for additional training, the AMC offers several courses each season through the Guided Outdoors program.

by Appalachian Mountain Club


AMC 2022 Outdoor Leader Handbook


Leadership is an association between an individual (the leader) and a group of people sharing a common interest or goal, with the leader guiding the group’s behavior. One of a leader’s most important functions is to influence the members of a group to work together for the benefit of all. During many outdoor activities, a group of people working together will be able to accomplish much more than one person acting alone – and the activity will be safer and more enjoyable. A leader’s ultimate responsibility is to a group rather than to themselves or to their friends.

When we address the issue of outdoor leadership, we must consider the characteristics of a leader and group members; the outdoor environment in which an activity takes place; and a group’s objectives for an activity. Also, it is important to recognize that although an individual may be an effective leader in one situation, they may not be effective in others. For example, a person who can successfully lead a small, experienced group of day hikers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire might find it difficult to lead a large group of less experienced day hikers in Harriman State Park in New York (or vice-versa).

Outdoor leadership skills can be developed and improved over time through a combination of self-study, formal training, and experience. Leadership trainings are offered frequently by volunteers and staff of the AMC. The trainings range from a single day to a weekend. If you are looking for additional training, the AMC offers several courses each season through the Guided Outdoors program.

Prospective leaders should start by co-leading trips with experienced leaders and by volunteering to “sweep” on these activities. (By sweeping, a leader will gain first-hand experience of the problems likely to occur in the back of a group.) We also recommend prospective leaders work with several different leaders to familiarize themselves with a variety of leadership styles and techniques. After observing different styles, leaders can choose techniques that work best for them.

Published January 2022

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