Get Wild: Leadership Lessons from Mother Nature
I was only two years old the first time my parents took me camping. From that moment, the mountains, rivers, and deserts in my backyard became my playground and my classroom. Nature as a teacher can be unpredictable, challenging, and dynamic. But the lessons that I learned while hiking, biking, rock climbing, paddle boarding, and horseback riding have made me a better person, team member, and leader. Get outside and see what I mean!
That last mile up a mountain. Feeling stuck on a rock face. Wiping out on a bike. These experiences challenge us mentally, physically, and emotionally. While it does take a good amount of pure skill and endurance to overcome them, it also takes resilience. Resilience is that toughness that we call upon when we are faced with a problem that seems insurmountable. It’s something that we learn through error, setbacks, and failure. We’ve all experienced these things in one form or another and while it can be discouraging and disappointing in the moment, when we bounce back from these experiences we demonstrate optimism, courage, and tenacity. Use these qualities to motivate yourself and others to accomplish great feats together!
While going outside can be a great place to get away, it’s also an amazing place to go to feel connected to others. I’ve found that I talk to more strangers in the middle of nowhere than I do in the bustling streets of my hometown. These relationships are built on a mutual respect and appreciation for each other and the beautiful places that we share. From offering simple trail suggestions to hours of campfire philosophizing, there are always opportunities to create and foster community together.
If complete strangers can come together in the wilderness in this way, then we can build these kinds of relationships in our work teams too:
- Ask good questions – I think that we too often ask others “How are you?” without actually caring about the answer. Take the time to ask meaningful questions and really listen to the answers.
- Trust others and be trustworthy – Trust is a two way street. Demonstrate that you are worthy of trust and then give the same opportunity to others.
- Offer help – It’s easy to get caught up in our own responsibilities and to forget about our team in the process. Take the time to help someone out and don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself.
- Be inclusive – A key component of a strong community is a sense of belonging. Evaluate your actions as an individual and as an organization to see what you do that is inclusive or maybe not inclusive. Then, take steps that will help everyone to feel included, involved, and engaged.
I met a hiker once who picked up trash everywhere we went. When I asked him about it he told me that it was for good karma. He said that the one day that he left trash behind he fell from a great height and was lucky to be alive. Ever since then, I’ve followed in his footsteps and do my part to leave no trace. We are stewards for this great planet and as such we have a responsibility to care for it. From trail clean ups to wildland restoration projects, there are so many ways that we can give back to the places that give us so much enjoyment.
The same can be said for our organizations. When we have genuine care for our teams, our shared vision, and our goals then it shows in the work that we do and we are able to make a powerful impact. Model the way so that others may be inspired and empowered as well! Then, make sure to give back to your organization and the people in it, let them know that they are recognized and appreciated.
Every moment spent outside is an opportunity to learn and experience something new. Last weekend, I saw the world’s largest tree for the first time, a sequoia named General Sherman, in Sequoia National Park. Next week, I’ll learn how to self rescue from a capsized kayak. There is so much history, wildlife, new skills, and unchartered territory to be explored! Even if exploring the wild isn’t your thing, never lose your sense of wonder with the world. Whether you want to learn how to speak Spanish, ride a bike, or do your taxes, make time in your life to keep learning!
Speaking of learning, your leadership lesson for this week is to get outside! Find a new trail, beach, or camping spot. Even in the busiest cities, there are incredible places that you can explore within an hour or two drive. If transportation is a challenge for you, check out your local parks and recreation or meet ups for groups that offer car pools and day trips! When you’re out there, put your phone away, and focus on being aware of and connected to your surroundings.
*Meet the Author*
Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.