Leadership Development in the Field

Alzar School

It is my pleasure to be writing this week’s blog after spending 10 days in the field with students, staff and teaching fellows. There is nothing like sleeping under the stars, diving for frisbees on remote sandy beaches, and deep belly laughs to leave you feeling grateful for the opportunities that we have here in Idaho. While our time on the Lower Salmon River and in the Idaho mountains was full of fun and games, it was also full of learning and leadership development.

From the time that students arrived on campus, the subject of leadership has been a “hot-topic.” In our Capstone Leadership course, students have explored the communities that they come from, leaders in their own lives, and Alzar School’s 10 Elements of Leadership. While all of our coursework has been building towards students’ Culminating Leadership Projects, it also aims to develop students’ understanding of what makes a strong leader. This week students applied their growing understanding and skills of leadership in the field.

Sam and Hunter cooking dinner in the Idaho backcountry.

As instructors, we prioritize modeling strong leadership for our students. On our river expedition, students experienced five different instructors with five distinct leadership styles, guiding them through rapids, new kayaking skills, and river-camp life. Modeling for students is invaluable and helps students as they each take on the challenge of leading their peers and instructors for the day as Leader of the Day (LOD). As a LOD, students work in small groups to plan their route and schedule for the day. As newcomers to life in the field, this can be incredibly challenging to students as they learn to see the big picture through 360° Thinking, one of the 10 Elements of Leadership.

Questions that LODs must ask themselves and answer for the group include: How many miles are we going? What are the major risks today? What are the hopes and expectations of the group? What classes and lessons need to be taught? What is our schedule? While these logistic focused questions challenge students, the interpersonal questions often challenge them more. LODs must also ask themselves: How will I lead my instructors and peers? How do I redirect my peers without the fear of being “hated”? How do I keep group morale high during challenging moments? How do I lead while I am still a student myself? Being a leader of the day is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences that students will have during their time here at Alzar School. Through these experiences, students supersede what is expected of them as students and peers back in their normal lives. They learn how to deeply and genuinely care for themselves, their group, and their equipment.

What is the most exciting part of these experiences? That they will have many more opportunities as LOD while on campus and in the field. Their journeys as Alzar School leaders have just begun.