I don’t know why leadership is such a frequently overlooked part of survival (and everyday life), but it just is.

Leadership is one of those elements in survival that rarely gets recognized for its importance during an emergency. Having a leader is also an inescapable reality when acting as a group. There will always be an Alpha in charge of the group. Maybe they’re not qualified to hold such a critical position, but they are almost always going to play the role they were born to play.
What should a good leader do with their position during an emergency?

There is much more to being a leader than just making a few plans, barking orders or trying to keep everyone pacified.

Just for starters — being a solid leader is about planning ahead, holding yourself to a higher standard, putting the interests of the group ahead of the few or the one, and much more.

What if you are stuck somewhere by yourself, though. That’s rough, but you can still use some leadership skills on yourself. When Steven Callahan was adrift in a lifeboat on the Atlantic Ocean for 76 days in 1981, part of his mind became a personality called the “Captain”. This Captain character gave orders to the “Crewman” personality and enforced all those orders. Callahan kept a detailed log of his ordeal at sea and he even records an argument between the Captain and the Crewman over the 16 ounce water ration. That’s right, he was living on only one pint a day before he was finally rescued! Think about that next time you’re sucking down a Super Big Gulp.

Whether you are stuck in the desert with a group of friends, or stuck at sea with your own emerging multiple personalities, here are some tested and approved leadership ideas that you can employ. Maybe you are not your group’s leader, maybe Mother Nature didn’t make you an Alpha, but maybe you can still steer things in a productive direction.

Survival Leadership 101

• Let everybody know that they are all on the same “team” with the same goal, the survival of the whole group.

• Lead that group by example and set standards (don’t ask anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t do.)

• Lay down the law (People WILL steal, lie and fight — have a group approved plan ready ahead of time for these things happen. Because they ARE going to happen under stress).

• Set realistic goals for your group (don’t make a flimsy bow and arrow, give it to the non-hunter, and then get the group all excited and drooling for venison tonight).

• Put the right person in the right job (give the guy with the broken leg the signal whistle and have him blow it 3 times in a row every 15 minutes, all day and into the night — give the hut building job to the pumped-up, gym rat — give the berry foraging job to NO ONE unless you have a well-trained edible plant specialist on the team — keep yourself busy at the most needed priorities so that the group sees that you are working too. They need a leader out there with them, not some King issuing decrees, sitting back on a moss encrusted stump for a throne.)

• Expect Murphy’s Law to govern all of your endeavors and plan ahead for the chaos, fear, panic, violence, bad weather, leadership being challenged, hysterical crying fits, and all of other possible problems that old man Murphy will throw at you. Have a plan ready for each possible problem.

• Be honest and unapologetic (do the things that must be done, be open about your actions, and don’t back down or apologize — your leadership strength will suffer for it).

Have you been a leader in a rough situation? Please share your leadership style and strategies by leaving us a comment.