Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

The Donner Party and How to Deal With A Crisis

One of my favorite places in the world is Donner Lake, California. Less than 10 miles from the much larger Lake Tahoe, it’s the location where the famous Donner Party – a group of California-bound settlers – were snowbound in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the winter of 1846–1847. It was a record snowfall, and survival became so perilous, some of the travelers resorted to cannibalism. They had arrived at the Donner Lake area just before the winter snowfall became heavy and the group debated on moving forward versus waiting it out.

The group that wanted to “wait it out” won the day, and a great tragedy resulted.  While I’m all for strategy, serious reflection, and thinking, I believe I would have voted to keep moving. Sitting still is very difficult for me, and I’m not one to wait anything out without a clear reason.

When it comes to leading organizations, as I think about going through a crisis of any kind, I have to decide – do I wait it out or move forward?  Do we pull back our plans or stay on track?  Do we trust the stock market, or God?  What decision will ultimately prevail? Perhaps more important, do we get excused from the Great Commission during tough times?

Think about it, because it’s not IF a crisis will happen, it’s WHEN.

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One Comment

  1. I just used the Donner Party as an illustration in a sermon I am preaching on “Life is an Adventure.” Great story! I used them as an illustration of how taking shortcuts is not the way to go. But I, like you, would have probably forged ahead. Good point to make, Phil, especially that last sentence.

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