Outward Bound Lessons to Live a Life of Leadership explores the concept of Expeditionary Leadership through the stories of former instructors and graduates of Outward Bound USA, and demonstrates how each of us can — in our own way — use the Outward Bound philosophy to bravely face the wild unknowns in our daily lives.

Here are few key thoughts from the book to help you embrace your role as a leader, whatever your current job title may be.

You Are Already A Leader

Mark has a few key points he focuses on in this book that follow the Outward Bound tagline — To Serve, To Strive, and Not to Yield.

  • To Serve: mission-driven work, serving the community, and following your path
  • To Strive: the leader as learner, the importance of continuing to learn throughout the journey, and the value of perseverance
  • Not to Yield: learning new areas of yourself you don’t know exist, and using that knowledge in your life

The Outward Bound motto, which is the the way the book is broken down, had significant impact on me. When I read the book, I started with the mindset that this is a leadership book, and I need to read it as if I were the leader of a business, or a teacher, or — for lack of better words — in a position of leadership in which I had a lot of people following me.

As I continued reading, I realized that each of these areas of the Outward Bound motto fit into the different leadership roles I play in my own life. The motto doesn’t require you to be in a high position of authority, but it applies to the areas of leadership that we often forget about. For me personally, it’s the leadership role of being a mom. In my family, I am a leader.

I quickly began to shift the lens in which I was reading the book from, and looked for ways to apply it to my everyday, ordinary life as a wife and mom.

To Serve: I was challenged to think about the mission of my role as a wife and a mom. What is it that I want to see my family achieving, and what is my role in that? How am I setting up my husband and daughter for success? What values am I living out and instilling in them? What can I be doing to care for them well so that they do the same for others?

To Strive: I was challenged to consider the opportunities to learn and grow that I have neglected. Being a leader, no matter how big or small the role might be, there is a constant learning curve in order to be the best leader one can possibly be. What can I be striving after to better my role as a wife and a mom? What resources are available to me that I am not taking advantage of? In what areas of my leadership role do I need to dig in a little bit deeper, especially when it gets difficult, and what do I learn from those experiences?

Not to Yield: This part of the Outward Bound motto probably impacted me the most. It was almost like receiving permission to explore my life. It reminded me that it is absolutely okay, and even beneficial to take time to do some self-reflection and learn about myself. The only limits I experience are the limits I put on myself, and this was almost like a statement of freedom, to say, “I will not stop here! I’m not yielding to anything, and I am going to learn all there is to know about myself, even the stuff that surprises me!”

Since then, I have been doing some more self-reflection, and I have even been challenging myself to some brainstorming sessions where I have been writing down things I am noticing or discovering about myself and then making a plan to bring some of those things to life, whether it is a new activity I want to try, an adventure I want to go on, or something about my character that I want to develop a bit more.

Leadership Is About People

“Empathy and action together form the true measure of distinction of an expeditionary leader.”

In order to be the best leader you can possibly be, you first have to care for people.

Empathy — not only feeling for someone, but placing yourself in their shoes to try and understand what they are feeling — is a form of compassion and service. When you are empathetic, you are serving an individual. Without empathy, you won’t build strong relationships with those you are leading, because they won’t ever feel that you are connecting with them as an individual.

When you pair empathy with action, you have a strong leader. Someone who seeks to understand those they are leading, makes a plan of action, and then executes that plan . . . now that is a powerful leader.

There’s Always Opportunity To Lead

“We can lead from where we are. We don’t need the title or position of leader. We just have to do what is right. Despite the risk. For ourselves. For each other.”

I am not the CEO of a large company, or a professor at a large university — but I am a wife, a mom, a friend, I am involved in church, I serve in my community, and there is always an opportunity to be a leader.

We tend to place the importance of a leader based on how many followers they have, but this quote made me realize that I am being a leader any time I make the choice to do the right thing. Anytime I am making a decision that will impact people beyond just myself. There is no “number requirement” to be a leader.

All of us are leaders in several areas of our lives; we have to embrace those roles, even if they don’t have a title!

If you read Outward Bound Lessons, what were some of your key takeaways?

If you haven’t read it yet, order your copy here!