Have you ever thought of your leadership style during a blizzard, or during a lack of water while backpacking the canyon lands? How about your leadership style in a group and you are the minority and opposing you were intimidating military personnel, wiser individuals, and people you barely know? Or even better have you ever led a small group of people in the dark, out of a canyon, during a rain and sleet storm?
Maybe these situations sound unrealistic or obscure to you. You are probably thinking “Ha, I would never even put myself in that situation. What crazy people would?” Well there are people out there that find these situations thrilling. They find these situations a building block to their journey and leadership style. The same situation will most likely never happen twice in an outdoor, back country adventure so the leader only becomes more diverse and experienced. “When you do not feel in a safe place, you cover your core self to protect it from exposure and harm and you develop a false self. At the same time you are continually growing, adding new layers of complexity, as you develop ways of interfacing effectively with the world while preserving the integrity of your core self” (George. 2007. P.78). Letting an unfamiliar situation push you out of your comfort zone to become a stronger person is a significant lesson of outdoor education.
Among us are individuals that are seeking a thrill. They find themselves traveling in the wilderness to see what awaits them. Outdoor education is also known to improve and empower leadership skills. For a well known outdoor school, NOLS: The National Outdoor Leadership School, the dream of their founder, Paul Petzoldt, is coming true. “In the beginning, our founder Paul Petzoldt dreamt of nurturing leaders who knew how to live responsibly in the wilderness and teach others to do the same. One way we’ve evolved to better accomplish that has been by offering more diverse courses and trainings. Today, we focus on teaching leadership in many contexts, from leading during medical emergency to a wilderness expedition, to training company executives, to helping our industry as a whole better manage the risks we face in the wilderness (NOLS, 2017)”. This is explaining that NOLS is now training their students to face their leadership style in many different ways. NOLS students leave the wilderness and are confident individuals who have the wit, sense, grit and a personal style to lead whatever may come their way.
From outdoor education the values and lessons learned in the field can be taken back to the office, classroom or family matters. As the article, “Outside of Institutional Training that Contribute to Outdoor Leadership Development” by Jacquie Medina, quotes J.C Miles, “Miles describes the role of experience in the development of sound judgment as ‘experience allows a person to place all the knowledge and skills being acquired in context, to practice their application in real situations’ (Medina, 2015)”.
It takes the every day leader into a more diverse environment. Imagine the skills you could learn from surviving in the canyons with only finding puddles of water. The idea of planning and preparation, using available resources and leading your people with encouragement and drive would all be needed. Imagine the learning process while building a snow shelter during a blizzard with a few strangers. You could learn perseverance, confidence and also a method of teamwork. There are people that do this. Would you sign yourself up? What would push you to your limit? How do you recover? How would you feel cozy in that snow shelter?
Outdoor education teaches you to strive for personal gain. Gaining from shoveling a heavy amount of snow for your personal warmth may sound silly, but is very realistic. Have you ever been drowning in something and you are about to go under but then you have an epiphany? Outdoor education does that in every situation: making friends, creating relationships, learning skills and surviving. It would be up to you to decide how to empower your leadership journey outside rather than staying inside your comfort zone.
George, B., & Sims, P. (2007).True North: Discover your Authentic Leadership. SanFrancisco,CA: Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons.
Medina, J. (2015, January 01). Experiences Outside of Institutional Training that Contributeto Outdoor Leadership Development . Retrieved February 25, 2017, from https://www.outdoored.com/articles/experiences-outside-institutional-training-contribute-outdoor-leadership-development
NOLS. (n.d.). NOLS: Our Story. Retrieved February 25, 2017, fromhttps://nols.edu/en/about/history/