Camping, Leadership and Whole Brain thinking.

Planning, packing, driving, setting up camp, pitching tents, lighting fires, cooking in the dark, adventures unbound. What possibly could a leader learn from all this, you may ask.

Over decades, outdoor expeditions and nature have been used as tools to build leadership. Whether it was the Scouts, the Outward Bound, or the Presidents Awards, in Kenya and elsewhere, schools often offered these to build leadership, bravery, courage, teamwork skills, and a deep appreciation for the earth.

While I was never a scout officially, and failed miserably at President’s Awards, I am an avid outdoor enthusiast and camper, and there is alot I have learned about leadership from those amazing adventures in the wild, and how each of these pieces also reflects our need to stretch into a specific quadrant of thinking (for reference on what I am talking about, find out more about Whole Brain Thinking at Herrmann International).

  1. THE PURPOSE. The BLUE quadrant. A good leader has a very good reason for going camping, or doing all that they do to make themselves and everyone comfortable.

Perhaps its simply to enjoy nature, or to enjoy the company of others. The purpose of the journey also determines where we choose to go – looking for nature but need some basic necessities? So perhaps a site that has clean water, and usable bathroom facilities. Looking for complete remote wilderness? Then we are ready to be completely self-sufficient. Having the purpose clear is always really important to our camping journeys.

2. THE PLAN . The GREEN quadrant. A good leader plans well, ensures that everything is taken care of, and double checks to make sure there is a back-up plan.

The worst thing that could happen while camping in the middle of nowhere is that you forgot something – possibly even the food! The most relaxing camping holidays are those when meals are planned well, so that everyone knows what to do and what to expect, when tents, rain shelters, shovels, and all other necessary tools are available and accessible. If going somewhere completely unchartered, we also need to plan our driving routes, so we know what best way to take. A good leader makes sure all the plans are well in place to make everything as easy as possible, and where needed, goes through the plans over and over again.

3. THE PEOPLE. The RED quadrant. A good leader suggests, and does not impose, ideas. A good leader treats everyone as equals. Decisions are made on collaboration , with everyone’s interests and needs in mind.

Where are we going next? In our particular group of friends, everyone suggests – if one person led all the time, made decisions all the time, then perhaps we would not be the best camping partners. The ability to let everyone speak, and make their needs known, in a space of trust, and respect, is key to working together to plan a camping trip. It’s the very core of what makes it all fun! Every person needs to feel like they are part of, are included, are cared for, and a true leader will make that happen, by creating the space for everyone to speak up and share their visions and wants.

4. THE PLAY. The YELLOW quadrant. A good leader finds innovative new ways of enjoying the time, fixing things, and taking risks. A good leader will also tap into their creative energies, and be inspired creatively by nature, whatever that could look like.

My husband is often excited about camping because of all the cool things he will get to fix, or put up, or break rules to try things differently. Apart from the actual ‘trying things differently’, camping also gives me the chance to get back to my creative space – now I do not paint well or do any visual art, but sometimes being outdoors gives me the inspiration for my writing and journaling musings. Sometimes taking risks also means jumping into a river, with the promise that there are no crocodiles.

Ultimately, many leisure activities in life improve our leadership skill, and we often don’t reflect on the life lessons we learn from these adventures. But perhaps, while we go on a physical journey, our selves are also going through a leadership improvement journey every single time.

So, next time you are on an adventure, think about what you learnt!

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