Learning Leadership Through Challenging Outdoor Activities

This past summer I attended a week-long Wharton Leadership Ventures expedition to Iceland where I had the chance to build leadership skills through mountaineering, hiking, and caving in Iceland. We also completed a social impact project for MúltíKúltí,  an Icelandic nonprofit dedicated to encouraging cross-cultural dialogue in Iceland and abroad. We developed solutions to help the organization expand the scope of its programs and operate more efficiently, and I had the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom at Wharton to help an Icelandic nonprofit! Balancing the creative aspects of completing a social impact project at the same time I was completing challenging activities taught me a great deal about generative thinking and how to manage competing priorities and overcome obstacles.

During the expedition we summited Snæfellsjokull (located in remote Western Iceland), which had a profound impact on me. Seven hours after we began our ascent, we were nearing the summit and had one final peak to climb. Everyone was roped together, which meant if one person slowed down, so did everyone else. By this time most people were exhausted and we each had to encourage our fellow team members while also finding the inner strength to persevere.

During the week, our team bonded: we learned what motivated ourselves – such as appreciation of nature, accomplishing challenging new activities, or pushing personal limits. We learned a lot by observing the way our Icelandic mountain guides led the group. From their example, we learned how to motivate a group with laughing yoga and how to handle changing conditions while ensuring group safety. By observing the guides’ methods of leadership, we became better leaders! We worked on our signature strengths, gave each other feedback, had the opportunity to lead the group at times, and triumphed in the face of challenge, change, and ambiguity.

Opportunities such as this allow you to connect what you are learning in the classroom to challenging outdoor activities, making you more self-aware and a better leader at Wharton and beyond!