I spent a few days recently doing something that is dear to my heart and has been for us as a family an important regular activity for nearly two decades – hill walking in The Lake District in the UK. I am pleased to note that as I write I have learned now that The Lake District has been designated a “World Heritage Site".
It is a sublime environment which provides the perfect peace to a busy and hectic life and allows one that key experience that every leader must have in his/her life – the opportunity to contemplate and reflect amidst beauty and silence in nature.
Why walk as a leader?
- Walking allows us time to freely look 360° at the environment.
- Walking allows us to control the environment or path we choose more intelligently and purposefully than if we were running/rushing at pace.
- Walking provides an opportunity to have an intentional inner conversation without taxing your body, which allows you to listen to the inner voices.
- Walking inspires you to explore new paths.
- Walking allows you to change directions easily.
- Walking allows others to keep up with you.
- Walking allows you the right pace so you can nourish yourself with food and drink for energy and sustenance.
- Walking minimizes injuries and enhances safety.
Why walk in nature?
- All the complexity in nature is duplicated in life but there is incredible order, intent and plan displayed openly and freely, without constraint – beauty organized!
- There is visible structure and framework.
- The sensory stimulation inspires creative thinking.
- Makes one feel small.
- The fresh air is invigorating to the senses.
- The rain and wind remind us of natural challenges that need to be overcome.
- Experience changes (weather, terrain, obstacles) in real-time.
- The experience seers the memory so we don't forget.
- Nature is a great teacher.
Why leaders in particular?
Leadership is many things and can be defined in many ways but the most important construct in Leadership is to have a clear vision that can be easily and clearly communicated to others. A vision of transforming another and making their life better – the core building block of leadership.
A purposeful walk in nature provides both the background and context to facilitate and strengthen that vision and allows time and the visual and sensorial acuity to rehearse how one will communicate that to others. Nature is a great listener and one often “hears” amazing feedback to thoughts and plans before they are outwardly expressed or enacted.
Nature is an open learning environment that can teach powerful lessons and Leaders need to take the time to reflect and to learn where to look for those lessons.
When you walk purposefully in nature your eyes may be open but, more importantly, nature opens your mind and your soul. Without insight into your soul and the motivation that comes from your soul with deep insight your ability to help others is weakened.
We often suppress our own nature and suppress our authentic self in order to meet the perceived expectations of others. Unfortunately, many of us end up becoming leaders that we don't want to be but are expected to be. In time, we find it difficult to sustain such a “false" persona, acting and going through the motions and often getting frustrated.
So if you are a leader or aspiring to be one then I encourage you to go for a walk in nature and set your soul free. Nature is authentic, what you see is what you get so use it as a driver, as a model, to be authentic yourself. People are inspired by authentic and caring leaders who are confident in their own skin.
Do you find being authentic a challenge? Are you living in someone else’s skin? Then get outside and start walking and don't stop till you feel one with yourself.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments on this article.
Norm Murray is CEO of nStratagem. We have a great deal of experience in helping leaders and organizations through their development and challenges. Contact us for a discreet discussion.
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