On Being A Leader by Tiffany Tharpe

When I originally started Black Girls Trekkin on Instagram, or “Black Girls Who Hike” as it was originally named, I didn’t know that a year later I would be leading monthly group hikes. If I went back in time and asked if that was where BGT was headed, past-me would have denied that fervently, and would also probably freak out because future-me was interacting with her.

I’m very introverted, even though people can’t believe it when I tell them that, and I feel awkward doing any kind of public-speaking of any sort– so how on earth was I able take Black Girls Trekkin off social media and into hiking and meeting different women of various ages, backgrounds, and experiences.

It has been a process, I’ll tell you that much.

And even now some days it’s hard to consider myself a “leader.”

I still have a lot to learn. A lot to experience. Some hikes/outings we do I feel go really well and that people have had a genuinely good time. Other times, I wonder if they’ll come back or what I could have done better or how I messed up something or forgot something. I tend to beat myself up about it afterwards.

I remember during one of our earlier hikes, I accidentally led the group back to the parking lot and not the trail we were supposed to be taking. I did not feel like a leader then.

I remember freezing up at a social mixer we went to to help encourage and promote diversity in the outdoors. I did not feel like a leader then.

I remember meeting all these strong, beautiful, and intelligent women and seeing how much they’ve accomplished. I remember feeling intimidated and realizing I still had so much to do, so much to experience and learn.

I did not feel like a leader then.

So what makes a leader? Or, more importantly, what makes a “GOOD” leader?

I guess it just depends on who you ask, but I know I’m not the only one who deals with these feelings sometimes. It can be hard to both lead and please a group of people.

What drives me is my love and passion for the outdoors. I love being outside. I love hiking, swimming, and doing outdoor activities where I get to test my own body’s strength. I love listening to the sounds of nature.

I feel like, as humans, we have a duty to conserve and protect nature, both for ourselves and the future generations to come. I hope that by leading these hikes, I’ll be able to instill that belief in at least one person. That’s what keeps me going; that’s my drive.

I remember taking my mom to Zion National Park for the first time. She isn’t really the outdoorsy type, but she was so awed and amazed at what she saw in Zion, that she wanted to continue to go on hikes with me (and the group). Now, I consider her the BGT “hype man”. I felt like I made a difference then.

I remember leading a group of fifteen wonderful and amazing people around some highlights in Joshua Tree. Things could have went wrong– it was hot and had the potential of being a bad and stressful day, but everyone had a really good time and a lot of people wanted to go back again. I felt like I made a difference then.

I remember putting together this group and meeting so many strong, wonderful, talented, and amazing women who I aspire to be like, as well as some intuitive and smart girls who will be the future leaders of the world.

I felt like I made a difference then.

So, even though I sometimes doubt myself, even though I do have bad days and sometimes want to quit, and even though I still have a lot of learning and growing to do, I have come very far from where I was when I first started. I have nowhere to go but up.

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