NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt's idea was simple: take people into the wilderness for an extended period of time, teach them the right things, feed them well and when they walk out of the mountains, they will be skilled leaders. The core of his idea was the extended expedition, one of sufficient length that a person could learn and practice the skills over and over again. That is the backbone of every NOLS course and today the school is widely recognized as the world's leader in the extended expedition, from two weeks to twelve.
There are a lot of ways to learn about leadership—books, seminars, classes, degree programs—but how do you learn to be a leader? At NOLS, leadership isn’t just a concept to be studied and pondered; we give you the tools to be a leader. What you learn here are leadership qualities you’ll carry with you the rest of your life.
NOLS Leadership Works for Life The focus of leadership NOLS-style is on leading small groups in the wilderness, but the lessons transfer to your life when you participate in groups at school, in sports and at work.
What is an Expedition? Setting goals, planning, efficiency and teamwork. Whether you're climbing Denali or embarking on a new business venture, these are the skills that will get you to the top. Planning, preparing, performing… it's a formula that applies not only to the wilderness, but to the expedition of life.skills What is Expedition Leadership at NOLS? Expedition leadership means timely, appropriate actions that guide and support your group to set and achieve realistic goals. Great leaders create an environment that inspires individuals and groups to achieve their full potential.
Leadership Types On every successful expedition, each member of the team fills a variety of leadership roles in order to achieve their ultimate goal. There are four types of leadership at NOLS, and all are equally important. What it means:
Designated Leadership What it means… taking responsibility for the group and guiding the group toward its goals determining how the group will achieve these goals
Active Followership What it means… supporting and following the designated leader participating in group decision making by giving input and seeking clarity
Peer Leadership What it means… the team works together and supports each other in achieving group goals each team member sees what needs to be done and does it
Self Leadership What it means… each person takes care of self so he/she can take care of the group everyone shows personal initiative and character
Expedition Behavior (E.B.) Photo: Tony Jewell What it means… cooperation and conflict resolution teamwork keeping yourself, and others, motivated getting along in a group of very diverse people Scenario: You've hiked your last mile of a long, hard hiking day, and now it's time to set up camp in the rain. Everbody's tired. And wet. But you step up to the challenge, making hot drinks for the group and cracking a joke that makes everybody laugh. Expedition Behavior (E.B.)
Competence Photo: Brad Christensen What it means… knowledge and skills organization and management technical ability Scenario: It's the last week of your 30-day Wind River Wilderness course, and you're on the student expedition, the last stage in your development as a leader. One of your course mates stumbles over while hiking and hits her head on a rock. Displaying excellent peer leadership, your group steps in and uses the first aid skills you've learned on the course, stabilizing her spine in case of neck or back injuries, and arranging an evacuation. Competence
Communication Photo: Tony Jewell What it means… using timely, specific, clear feedback listening actively having courage to state what you think, feel and want trying to put yourself in other people's shoes during conflicts Scenario: A couple of your course mates like to stay up late at night laughing and talking loudly after you've crawled into the tent to go to sleep. Instead of letting your tempers flare, you use clear and timely feedback to let them know you need them to be more quiet. At the same time, you look at things from their perspective — maybe they're not doing it to annoy you, but are just being absent minded.
Judgment & Decision-Making Photo: Traverse Zink What it means… situationally-appropriate decision- making using your experience to develop good judgment harnessing the strengths and knowledge of other group members to solve problems Scenario: You're skiing in the backcountry, looking for the best snow and the best slope to ski on. Finally, you find just the right one, a guaranteed shot at endless turns in knee-deep powder. But is it safe? Even though your entire group wants to ski it, you have to use your best judgment, perform the right stability tests and make a good decision.
Tolerance for Adversity & Uncertainty Photo: Tony Jewell What it means… learning to endure, even enjoy, hard work and challenge adapting to changes and unknowns turning challenging situations into opportunities using humor to keep things in perspective making focused decisions under stress Scenario: On the way to the summit of Wind River Peak in Wyoming's backcountry, your group sees some nasty weather approaching. Summiting the peak has been your team's goal from the beginning of the expedition, but as the rain starts to sting your face, you realize the dream may not become a reality. Rather than resorting to grumpiness, you grin and bear it, laughing about your wet boots and pointing out an alternative route that will be just as rewarding.
Self-Awareness What it means… knowing yourself and your strengths and weaknesses learning from experience being aware of your own leadership style and how you influence others realizing how your words and actions impact others Scenario: It's the end of the third day of your expedition, and you're beginning to feel a "hot spot" on your heel, the start of a bad blister. If you tell someone, the whole group will have to stop while you take off your hiking boots. But, if you don't address the problem, the blister might get infected, leaving you unable to walk and your group faced with a much trickier dilemma.
Vision & Action Photo: Tom Bol What it means… seeing the possibilities in any situation and finding creative ways to move the group forward motivating and initiating using group goals to guide your actions Scenario: Your expedition has a tough decision to make — do you hike hard for ten miles so you can reach a spectacular valley, or do you take a different route, enjoying some of the great fly fishing along the way. Now's your chance to rise to the occasion, motivating the group to take action and helping out others in the group who might be having a hard time deciding.