A bridge is a wonderful symbol of connectivity experienced in a tangible way on the trail. Bridges connect two parts of the trail separated by a gulf, or a river, or a stream, or a chasm so that the hiker can easily move from one side to the other. Often times, ultimate success can only be found as the hiker discovers the bridge over troubled waters. My summer hike to the Grand Canyon brought this reality into focus as we crossed many bridges. Without the bridges the hike would have been terribly difficult if not impossible. We crossed the Colorado River twice on two different bridges – once going down the South Kaibab Trail and once going up the Bright Angel Trail. Both suspension bridges allowed us to safely cross the dangerous river below.
Some bridges are quite small and only span a small creek or mountain stream but they can save the thru-hiker’s socks and feet from being submerged in cold water thus making the next several miles soggy and uncomfortable. Other footbridges just help the hiker avoid a rocky dip in the trail or a muddy patch too wide to vault. Big problems or small issues, the bridge is always my friend.
And the view from many a bridge is interesting if not spectacular. I love to stand on a bridge and see the sights “suspended in mid-air” so to speak. The bridge provides a different perspective. I even like the different sounds produced by bridges. My favorite is the wooded bridge that sounds like the cloggers at the county fair; a metal bridge echoes like football cleats on pavement; and a bridge of cement reminds me of the sounds of miles of country roads a hiker often travels before reentering the haven of the forest trail.
A leader can be a bridge or a dangerous river. Effective servant leaders function as powerful bridges, allowing others to cross over difficulties toward greater success. Genuine leadership is the process of providing bridges with the goal of transforming vision into reality. It is a joy to watch empowering leaders motivate and inspire others on the journey. Ineffective leaders, however, prohibit change and make movement difficult – instead of bridging the gap and solving issues, poor leaders pull others into the rapids and cause the individual, the team, the department and even the entire organization to be swept downstream. Providing impactful leadership is like building a bridge for others to cross thus avoiding the dangers beneath. May we all be bridge builders.