Being a leader can be scary and challenging. This past month we took a trip to Moab, Utah with a group of girls who were identified by their therapists as possessing leadership qualities. Throughout the 3-day trip, we were able to help these girls discover what their leadership qualities are, and to learn how to put them to use.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the devotional that we gave the first night we were there. We all gathered around the fire after dark and discussed how being a leader doesn’t have to be accomplished one specific way. Each of our students are unique, and along with their differences come different types of leadership qualities. After discussing what qualities the girls thought a leader should posses, we sent them away from the campfire. As staff and therapists, we gathered together to discuss each girl. We came to agreement on what part of nature each girl possesses and how that element plays into their leadership traits.

Discovering Your Leadership Style

One-by-one we called the girls back. We explained to them individually what their symbol was, how it related to them, and drew it on their face. Two of my favorite symbols given were the moon and a cactus. The student who was given the moon was told that her leadership is quiet, and oftentimes unseen, but when needed she shines bright. The girl who was given the cactus was told that, like a cactus, she is strong and can withstand many elements, and that she steps up to lead when times may be tough.

As we assigned her element of nature, each girl went back to sit around the fire. By the time the last girl came up, there was a peaceful calm in our camp site. Each girl shared with the group what their element was, and what leadership qualities they see in themselves. For me, this was a very powerful moment. These girls were realizing that while they are all different and they can each lead in very powerful ways. Some girls doubted themselves. As soon as the doubt was spoken, those around her were there to challenge her thoughts and help to build her up.

Putting Your Leadership to Use

We spent the following days rafting the Colorado River and hiking through Arches National Park. While rafting, each girl stepped up and lead their group in ways that I never expected. Some of their actions were big, others were small, but they were all seen. The student who was given the moon the night before surprised me the most. She was quiet while on the river, and her leadership was soft and unseen by most. As the raft would fill with water after a rapid, she was the first to grab the bucket and start bailing. Nobody asked her to do this, and nobody commented on her doing so, but she played a large roll in our journey.

While hiking in Arches each group was given a map and told what time to be back, and then sent on their ways. The hike our group chose was one of the longer ones. It was a hot day and they were all tired from rafting the day before. They could have easily chosen a shorter hike, one with more shade or a paved path, but they chose to push image1themselves. We hiked to Delicate Arch, which while only 3 miles round trip, is mostly uphill and hot. Each girl stepped up to lead in her own way. We had our cheerleaders, one who lead the group, and others who stayed back to help those going at a slower pace. But all together they worked as a team. While I expected complaining and maybe a bit of defiance, there was an overall positive attitude on the hike. Plus, the end view definitely made all the sweating and burning calves worth it.

Sharing Your Leadership with Others

Before we loaded up to head back to St. George, the girls surprised us by giving each staff and therapist their own part of nature that they represent. My group of five girls told me I was like a wolf. They told me that I was loyal, I take in those who may not have anybody else, and that most importantly I never leave anybody behind. These qualities that they brought to my attention were ones that I had never seen in myself. These girls truly learned how to seek out leadership qualities in others, and to help build others up through making their qualities known. While I thought going on this trip would be a good opportunity for me to help our girls find leadership skills, they ended up doing that for me. They teach through example, and they’re good at it.

Owning Your Leadership

Since returning from this trip, I have seen each of these girls take major strides in their relationships within the community. I think one of the biggest take-home points was that while the girls were able to find their own leadership qualities. They learned how to recognize leadership qualities in others. Many of these girls have learned that being a leader means you might not always be liked, and they’re learning to be okay with that. It’s been great watching them grow into themselves and discovering more leadership qualities in themselves as they progress in their treatment. They’re taking this time in their lives to develop themselves, and in turn lift others along the way.