Every year since 1973, mushers and dogs have competed in a race once reported by British journalist Ian Woolridge as “the only really great race left.” The Iditarod, a sled dog race through the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness, is a story of teams.
The winning team is the first to travel from Anchorage to Nome, through storms and bitter temperatures below negative 45 degrees Celsius. With 1,770 kilometers (1,100 miles) of rough terrain and deep, often treacherous, snow and 40-knot headwind, reaching the finish line is 10 to 20 full days away from when the race begins.
Although it may be unusual to compare a team of 16 dogs to a team of people, the champion leader in both situations always assembles the right talent, organizes and develops specific and intentional roles, and manages diversity and differences.
One of those champions is Libby Riddles. On the 20th of March 1985, 18 days, 20 minutes, and 17 seconds after leaving Anchorage, she became the first woman in history to win the Iditarod and proved the value of building a great team. Mushing with a team of home-bred and trained sled dogs, Riddles made a pivotal decision at the checkpoint in Shaktoolik before the sun rose on the fifteenth day. While her competitors waited out a harrowing blizzard, she drove her team into the 40-knot headwind, zipping herself into her sled bag and spending a night camping alone with her dogs in the snow when visibility vanished. Libby knew that her decision to ...