Leadership: More Beyond, or There Be Dragons?

Back in the mid-80’s, I was restless in my work at Procter & Gamble, and enrolled in a ten day “career development” course for professionals through the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School  Outward Bound is a hands-on learning organization whose participants develop self-esteem, a recognition of internal strengths and abilities, and a shared sense of responsibility toward others through challenging outdoor experiences.  It is based on the ideas of Kurt Hahn, a progressive German educator, who started what became Outward Bound, a training program developed during World War II to give young British sailors the skills and experiences they needed to survive at sea.

I remember those 10 days spent sailing in a 30-foot pulling boat around Penobscot Bay, Maine, with a sense of amazement and gratitude.  Amazement at what my watch accomplished – a group overnight solo on an island with only a 5-lb. can of peanut butter for dinner, one person’s duffel bag, and a tarp; the Hurricane Island ropes course, my own individual solo; rappelling down into a rock quarry; rowing ashore each morning for our “run and [chilly Atlantic Ocean] dip” – and gratitude that the experience helped me believe in myself, and my ability to meet any challenge head-on and accomplish my goals, even to this day.

In continuing my quest to get more organized, I ran across my little book of Outward Bound Readings, a compilation of quotes OB instructors have shared with students during a course.  Here’s one of my favorites from Renate Wilson, under the chapter entitled “Challenge”:

What then is the essence of Outward Bound?  I believe the answer lies on a phrase with which map makers of long ago filled in the blank spaces of unexplored regions.  The scholarly wrote “terra “incognita,” and those with a fanciful mind “there be dragons,” but the real optimists among them used the words “more beyond.”  Outward Bound gives us the opportunity to explore the unchartered regions of our body and our sprit; it is for all of us who are sure that there is more beyond.

I believe that great leaders don’t look at unknowns as “there be dragons” to be feared or avoided, but rather as opportunities to be found and challenges to be met.  How do you see it?

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