Lead By Listening

Expeditionary Leaders solve problems and challenges by listening. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it. But the truth is, deep listening requires great humility and belief in the party or parties to whom you are listening. Listening is a key ingredient to building trust.

A year ago I spent some time with Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, and philanthropist (to name just a few). I snapped the picture above while waiting for my interview with him. 

His story mirrored the others I had interviewed for my new book, Outward Bound Lessons To Live A Life of Leadership. And one of the lessons he reflected so deeply was the importance of listening. 

Arthur told me the tale of his purchase of the Atlanta Falcons. As he explored the opportunity he met with the professional players and asked them what they would want from an owner. Their answer surprised me. 

On any given Sunday only about 60% of the seats were filled.

"Of the 60% that...

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Meet Expeditionary Leader Liz Cunningham

Liz writes and speaks about the ocean conservation and the skills we need to be effective stewards of our fragile seas. Her career began as a political journalist but changed direction after a kayaking accident nearly killed her. During her time of rehabilitation and healing she decided to dedicate her life to ocean conservation.

Liz first experienced Outward bound as a teenager on a course in North Carolina, but she was already well connected to its philosophy. Her great uncle was Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound's founder. Liz, along with her husband, have kept his writing and philosophy alive by creating and curating the online website kurthahn.org

Liz is the author of Ocean Country, a call to action and meditation on the current state of our oceans; and Talking Politics: Choosing the President in the Television Age. She is currently at work on two books: The Passion for Rescue; and Our Oceans, Our Breath.  She generously mentors and gives her time to a wide range of...

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Meet Expeditionary Leader Arthur Blank

"Of all the organizations I've been connected to, Outward Bound has had the most significant impact on my life." --Arthur Blank

Honored by Forbes Magazine in its 2017 centennial issue as one of the 100 greatest living business minds, Arthur Blank cofounded The Home Depot in 1978. Arthur was friends with North Carolina Outward Bound School founder Marjorie Buckley, and almost from its inception Outward Bound and expeditionary leadership became a guiding piece of the rapid growth and success of The Home Depot. "Of all the organizations I've been connected to, Outward Bound has had the most significant impact on my life," said Arthur in the upcoming book Outward Bound Lessons To Live A Life of Leadership.

After retiring from The Home Depot Arthur became owner and chairman of the Atlanta Falcons professional football team. Through his holding company AMB Group he has continued to expand his businesses to include the Atlanta United professional soccer team, PGA TOUR superstore, and...

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Meet Expeditionary Leader Luis Benitez

Luis Benitez is the Vice President for government affairs and global impact at the VF Corporation, a $23 billion holding company that includes some of the outdoor industry’s most iconic brands.

Prior to joining the VF Corporation, Luis was appointed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to lead the newly established Outdoor Recreation Industry Office in 2015. In that role, he transformed the outdoor industry into a powerful force for economic development, conservation and stewardship, education and workforce training, and public health and wellness. Under his watch, the state’s outdoor economy ballooned from $28 billion to $65 billion.

Luis spent a decade managing Outward Bound Professional in Colorado at the start of his career. He also served as the COO and Director of Operations for Adventure
Consultants, a New Zealand-based global expedition firm with a long and
storied history of leading trips on Mount Everest that was featured both in the
book Into Thin Air and in...

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Meet Expeditionary Leader Eduardo Balarezo

Eduardo Balarezo is a former financier, business executive and social entrepreneur who currently leads Mind Shift Impact, a transformational change organization. He focuses his expertise in systems thinking, alternative futures and adventure learning to design programs that help individuals achieve meaningful personal and professional transitions in today’s Impact Economy.

 Eduardo is a recognized social entrepreneur and founder of the retail brand Lonesome George & Co., which provided funds for the education and protection of the Galapagos Islands.  He next channeled his passion for business, adventure learning and social impact to teach youth about courage and compassion by founding Academy of Agents of Change in Miami. In partnership with the North Carolina Outward Bound School this program prepares high school students to identify their passions and use them to tackle pressing social issues in their communities. 

Eduardo was...

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Meet Expeditionary Leader Peter Bailey

"Leading for legacy is the highest end of leadership"--Peter Bailey in Outward Bound Lessons To Live A Life of Leadership

Peter is the president of the Prouty Project, which delivers strategic planning and leadership development to organizations worldwide. Prior to joining the leadership of the Prouty Project he worked as a global performance consultant for Wilson Learning, designing cross cultural and global performance improvement programs.

Peter was one of the first "urban Outward Bound instructors" in the country and helped pioneer much of the early experiential learning movement in schools. His innovative work and deep grasp of experiential education has led to a career of helping organization's find their highest calling and leaders find their deepest strengths. 

In addition to the work he does with business executives, Peter continues his relationship with Outward Bound by serving on the board of the Voyaguer Outward Bound School in Minnesota. His advice to leaders as...

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Never Give Up On Giving

We're just a few weeks from the publication of my book, Outward Bound Lessons To Live A Life of Leadership. The "lessons" are told through the stories of fifteen extraordinary people. They range in age from a now sophomore in college who was 16 when she launched her first non-profit to a man in his eighties who served in the first class of the Peace Corps. The lessons reflect an approach to walking in the world that I call "Expeditionary Leadership."

Author and master coach Richard Leider, who wrote the foreward for my book, put it this way: "The Outward Bound motto--To Serve, to Strive, and Not to Yield--has always struck a deep chord within me. And, if there is one great secret to becoming an Expeditionary Leader, it is to never give up on giving--to serve."

Universally everyone I spoke with while researching this book referenced the motto. These values: serving, striving, and not yielding, are the core of the lessons that I learned from my years of working with Outward...

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Swayed Always By Beauty and Truth

In case you are jumping into this for the first time, we have been exploring an inspirational saying by Minnesota and Canada Outward Bound founder Bob Pieh:

Be tough yet gentle, humble yet bold, swayed always by beauty and truth.

Swayed always by beauty and truth. These words are the true north of an Expeditionary Leader. They guide actions and provide the moral compass that lay at the heart of Outward Bound founder Kurt Hahn's philosophy. 

Let me start out by clarifying what I am not referring to when looking at beauty. Our culture has objectified "beauty" around the physical characteristics of women, commercialized it and created a half a trillion dollar industry around its pursuit. We could engage (and perhaps we should) in a deep debate around the damage caused by focusing on physical appearance in our culture, but that is not the conversation of this particular post.

Beauty leads us toward the sacred. Look at church, synagogue and mosque architecture. The places we design...

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Humble Yet Bold

In my last post I introduced a saying from Minnesota (now VOBS) Outward Bound School founder Bob Pieh--Be tough yet gentle, humble yet bold, swayed always by beauty and truth. And we discussed the first part, be tough yet gentle.

Humble yet bold describes the ideal qualities of a great leader. Best selling author and researcher Jim Collins identified exactly these characteristics when he described "level 5" leadership in his groundbreaking book, Good To Great. That book came out in 2001. Bob Pieh wrote this in the 1960s. And Outward Bound founder Kurt Hahn began cultivating these qualities when he founded his first school, Salem, in April 1920.  The rest of the world is beginning to discover what all of us who have been associated with Outward Bound have been taught and been doing for its entire history--creating great leaders, who are humble and bold.

Humility is perhaps one of the most misunderstood leadership qualities. With a 24-hour news cycle and the...

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Be Tough Yet Gentle

Anyone who has ever visited Homeplace, the northern Minnesota base for the Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) may remember signs nailed on the trees every quarter mile from Minnesota and Canada Outward Bound founder Bob Pieh:

"Be tough, yet gentle. Humble, but bold. Swayed always, by beauty and truth."

Most wilderness Outward Bound schools hold a personal challenge event as part of the final physical challenge of the expedition. When I was an OB participant in Utah we had a ten mile run up a beautiful side canyon on the Green River. At VOBS the challenge is a type of triathlon--a six mile paddle, one mile portage, and then a five mile run on logging roads back to Homeplace. Some of my most vivid memories working there were setting off in my kayak and paddling to the first check point on Birch Lake at dawn--sitting on a small island and sipping my morning coffee as the first canoes came through the mist, and cheering on the determined paddlers as they pushed themselves and their...

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