40 Leadership Lessons from the Freedom Trail – #25

On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife and soulmate, retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.

While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson.


Leaders don’t operate through power

After an overnight stay in Chester, we moved on to Lassen Volcanic Park.

What a place – lovely and sunny but freezing! The top peaks of the volcanoes had a covering of snow. It was a place of wondrous beauty, peaceful yet quite imposing!

We stopped at the first panoramic vista point and got out to soak in the scene – wearing just t-shirts and jeans. Another car pulled in shortly after us. Two ladies dressed from head to toe in ski gear – jackets, ear muffs, gloves – the lot. They couldn’t believe we were standing there so lightly garbed!

We told them that the folks from NE England were ‘well hard’ – and then jumped back in the car to put on jumpers, as soon as they drove off. How we laughed!

As we climbed higher, it got colder and colder. When Les hopped out for a quick photo at one viewpoint, it was even snowing!


We drove right the way through the park, which was about 20+ miles.

Les found the road was particularly scary – with sheer drops either side at times, and U-bends you would not believe! Once I managed to persuade Les to climb out from under her seat – and to take her fingernails out of my thigh, she soon realised just how stunning the views were!


On our drive out of the park, we noticed the ‘devastated area’ where the forest fire raged the previous summer.

We also visited the museum and saw the photos taken when it last erupted badly in 1915 – that was quite a sight! At the museum, you can see some great stuff about the park, its geology, including how volcanoes form, and its wildlife.


Lassen Peak is one of the many active, though currently, dormant volcanoes found around the Pacific Ocean. Formed about 27,000 years ago, it is one of the world’s biggest plug dome volcanoes rising from 2000 ft to nearly 10500 ft above sea level.


We found the Lassen area is rich with lush forests and meadows, rushing mountain streams, soaring mountain vistas, tranquil lakes, seasonal wildflowers and a wide variety of wildlife. This scenic beauty is accompanied by hissing

This scenic beauty had an accompaniment of hissing mud pots, steaming fumaroles, dormant lava dome and cinder cone volcanoes and a remnant of a stratovolcano.

I bet you were impressed with all that information – I copied it from the leaflet!!!!

P1040976As you can see from the photograph opposite, the Parks Department have created many pathways for exploration of the area. We walked on a trail about 2 miles into the canyon to an area known as ‘Bumpass Hell’.

The trek in was a little scary – often a relatively thin ledge – scattered with large rock formations and tree roots – but a long way down!


We were over 8000 ft up, so the air was also rather thin, but that didn’t stop the smell reaching our way well before we saw Bumpass Hell!

We dropped into an area of seething mist coming from the lava beds and the mud holes. The smell was disgusting – it soaked into your skin, and you could taste the sulphur! We thought nose pegs would have been a great asset at this point!

After another brilliant day, we headed back to Chester. Tomorrow we were packing up to go to South Lake Tahoe for a week, and we both thought how brilliant it would be to stay in one place for a while. At least then we would be able to remember where the toilet is in the middle of the night!

Reflecting later that evening on the wondrous power of nature, I began musing on leadership and power. It struck me that many leaders believe they wield power when in truth they lead by influence. In fact, what affects the choices of those they lead are often the leader’s vision, values and their sense of purpose.

As a Head of Service for over seven years, I came to understand that my powers were extremely limited, but my influence grew the more I became known and respected by my staff, my peers and my partners.

[Tweet “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. – Marcus Aurelius”]

As always, I welcome your comments and dialogue. I also wish you an entertaining and enlightening experience of this series of posts.

Thank you for reading.

Leaders don’t operate through power – their vision, values and sense of purpose influences the choices of those they lead.


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