Leadership Lessons from Backpacking

Lessons can be learned from many of life’s endeavors, but I’ve found backpacking seems to offer more than its fair share of learning opportunities. Who knows, maybe the mind is distracted by productive thinking while trying to avoid questioning one’s own sanity in lugging a 40-pound pack around the woods.

Group of trekkers cross the bridge at Annapurna region on Himalayas.

Recently, my teenaged daughter and I shuffled off to the boonies. This was her first backcountry backpacking experience so she was on a steep learning curve. Somewhere along the journey I realized there are numerous leadership lessons that can be drawn from our experience. Here are 10 takeaways for leaders that certainly relate to guiding others and leading organizations.

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Over Managed and Under Led?

The dichotomy between leader and manager has been analyzed ad nauseam, but there is a relevant question you should ask when it comes to organizations and businesses. Is your organization over managed and under led?

The discussion defining leadership and management can launch in multiple directions. Organizations need both. Simply defining leadership seems a challenge. Webster’s Dictionary defines leadership as, “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” Business News Daily published an article that listed 33 definitions of leadership. Here’s my leadership definition: “The ability to influence people in a direction you need them to go.” Continue Reading

Cam Newton, Leadership, Failure and You

Cam Newton, the extremely talented quarterback of the North Carolina Panthers, has figuratively been hung, drawn and quartered by media and everyone with a Facebook account over his post-Super Bowl 50 press conference. Justified? Maybe, maybe not, but how well would you have handled it?

The text Sometimes You WIN Sometimes You LEARN, appearing behind torn brown paper. Motivational quote.

Newton obviously has some maturing to do (don’t we all?), but think through the lives of history’s great leaders. Adversity shaped their ability to lead. Many wilted, but so many of them recovered to accomplish great things. Success without adversity does nothing (or very little) to shape character, so maybe Newton needed Sunday’s defeat more than he needed a Super Bowl win. Continue Reading

Dear Younger Professional Me…

Have you ever thought about what you’d write to your younger professional self about your vocational journey? After 25 years in the communications field, there are dozens of things I’d pass on, but here are 10 I feel are most important.


This exercise was prompted by a young friend of mine who is transitioning from his first job out of college to his second with a different company. He’s talented, a team player, productive and meets deadlines. A good steal for his new company, and provided the job fulfills expectations, it will be a good move for him. Here’s what I’d tell him and definitely what I would tell my younger me. Continue Reading