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Leadership Lessons from our Younger Generation

Talking, listening & reflecting around the campfire

What are the two top tips you want to pass onto tomorrow’s leader from your experience?”

We’re sat cross legged on mats in a circle as dusk falls and the stars slowly appear across the night sky. Abby* pauses to reflect back over the day where our team has successfully kayaked down the Zrmanja River to the Krupa River junction in Croatia, established a wild camp on the river banks nestled between the sides of a steep canyon, collected water from a natural spring and grilled sausages over an open fire for dinner.

Over the last ten years I’ve supported seven World Challenge expeditions to Ecuador, Vietnam, Laos, Nepal, Morocco and Croatia, working with over 75 students. These trips range from seven days to four weeks, though with my current performance coaching and ultra-running training commitments it’s only feasible to focus on the shorter week long expeditions.

The role and responsibilities of an expedition leader is pretty relentless, just like any leadership position within the business world and beyond. However, the reward from observing students develop confidence, self-awareness, ability to work as a team and experience the delights of travel abroad (often for the first time) is priceless. Most importantly it’s a two-way process as I inevitably learn and re-learn a raft of valuable insights based from observing the world through a completely different lens.

Back to the Croatian wilderness where Abby confidently explains her thoughts to the team:

1. Be proactive and plan ahead. Think about what’s happening in the future to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

2. Use your team members and remember to delegate tasks. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Wise words from a fifteen-year old. These sentiments are just as applicable to a Boardroom Member in the City as they are to a student in the wilderness.

How many times do we become bewitched in the moment and forget the future?

When did you try to complete everything yourself without asking for help?

Other golden nuggets that cropped up during our daily reviews around leadership included:

1. Be confident.

2. Be kind.

3. Ask questions.

4. Take the time to listen.

5. Don’t be afraid to be strict at times even if they’re your friends.

6. Not everyone will like your decisions.

It’s easy to cast our younger generations in a negative light and lament a shift in values though there’s valuable knowledge and a wealth of insights which transcends age if we take the time to listen, open our minds and be empathetic.

A week later fully immersed back into my usual performance coaching work routine, the similarities surrounding leadership themes which crop up in my clients coaching conversations time and time again draws my attention back to the campfire moment and Abby’s thoughts around leadership.

What can you learn about leadership from our younger generations?

Note* The student name has been changed for anonymity purposes.

Wild camp next to Krupa River in Croatia

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