“How long is the shadow of your leadership?” A recent article in the ACA’s Camping Magazine includes an article by Kerry Plemmons, a clinical professor at Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. The basis of the article is that camp is good for everyone. Plemmons and fellow professors bring students from DU’s business school to The Nature Place for a weekend early in their graduate school careers to help teach the students the leadership skills necessary to be successful business men and women.
The relationship between Daniels and The Nature Place started in 1990 when Rob Jolly and Sandy Sanborn approached Daniels with the idea of experiential leadership. As part of the 10th Mountain Division, Sandy saw the importance of strong leadership in challenging situations. He saw how organizations could be successful with a flat structure. He saw the long-term benefits of leadership opportunities in students of all ages. During the summer, we offer a Peaks to Performance curriculum where campers can partake in SOLE and CORE in 8th and 9th grade, respectively and are able to be Junior Counselors and Outbackers in 10th grade. We put into practice the beliefs that Sandy felt so important with campers:
- Individual development: self confidence, virtue & courage, sense of self, leadership roles & styles, establishing trust
- Team development: working with a team, encouraging & helping others, interdependency, membership and followership
- Problem solving: managing others, creativity & innovation, environmental awareness
These are the same skills that DU business students develop and practice during a three-day weekend. As Plemmons points out, it is easy and fun to talk about leadership, ethics, and values in a classroom, but it is not until the skills can be put into practice that individuals are challenged, motivated, and successful at implementing personal change. Campers are challenged during the summer in a safe and supervised environment. Counselors are prepared to help campers work together and challenge themselves individually.
Daniels students are taught “the Shadow of Leadership” – we practice leadership skills modeled by others, and those skills
are hopefully passed onto other people we interact with; and ideally the shadow of good leadership continues to grow. Plemmons explains, “When you think of bad leadership, the influence of that person leaves as soon as the physical shadow is gone…Good leadership is able to influence people across boundaries of time and space through empowerment.” This is our goal for every participant (from the young camper, to the DU graduate student, to the corporate business person) who comes through the Colorado Outdoor Education Center – to be in the shadow of positive leadership and help that shadow grow.
It is important to us to keep asking, “How will you build capacity in others in a manner that lengthens the shadow of your leadership?”