Learning leadership skills through adventures in the Amazon Rain Forest

Transformative skills are learnt better through real-life experiences

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This summer, as most people will be packing their swimsuits and mozzie spray to head off on holiday, I will be joining a team of experts from British Exploring Society (BES) and together we will take a group of young people between the ages 16 and 23 into the Amazon Rain Forest. The purpose? Leadership development through adventure.

We will also be packing mozzie spray – and lots and lots of it too. But our expedition will be packed with so much more: adventures and stories about teams and individuals and how they can grow and blossom together.

For the past 87 years, BES has transformed the lives of many young – and old – with challenging experiences out in the wilderness. The expedition members explore the world whilst discovering themselves. This better understanding of oneself translates into better understanding of others. The explorers are pushed far beyond their comfort zone and encouraged to think outside the box, under pressure, with limited available resources. They form strong bonds within their team and learn how to negotiate difficult relations. They develop their curiosity for science under the expert guidance of a Science Leader. They motivate themselves to overcome physical boundaries with the help of an Adventure Leader. They look to the Chief Leader for inspiration. They count on the Base Camp Manager for support in their everyday life in the jungle.

All these actions lead to the development of skills such as empathy, resilience, courage. Our young explorers absorb these new skills which ultimately empowers them to become great leaders.

As a leader of trainee leaders, I am all too aware of my own words and actions and their  impact on the young explorers. I will role model those words and actions but I am also fully aware of my fallible humanity. It’s not about never making mistakes, but rather taking ownership of them and putting them to right.

For me, one of the most powerful things to look forward to will be observing how this adventure unfolds for the young individuals in our care. To watch them grow. To create a safe space for them – mentally and emotionally – even if the physical reality will be challenging. To nurture their development. To hold them accountable whilst establishing trust.

Leadership skills, like most other skills, are best learnt through real life experiences. This Amazon expedition promises to be a life-altering experience!

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