On Tuesday, June 26th, I have to admit I was not in my Accounting and Financial Reporting class. I was not skipping class or on a business trip. On the contrary, I was on the top of the tallest mountain in Norway. What took me from 1625 Massachusetts Avenue to an elevation of 8,100 feet on the top of Galdhøpiggen? In a word: Carey.
As part of the Leadership Development Expedition course this past summer, a number of Flex MBA students, online students, and one GMBA student decided to take a hands-on approach to leadership. Led by the stalwart and adventurous pairing of Chris Myers and Mike Doyle, 13 of us travelled for almost two weeks to put theory into practice to the backdrop of this majestic Nordic country with its fjords, pine trees, and rocks. So many rocks. Although, in actuality, each one of us students led.
Before our departure for Norway, we each completed an assignment to collect stories about our best selves from colleagues, family, friends, and others. Through the analysis of these stories, we discovered themes and analyzed commonalities; plotting a course to our growth and development as leaders.
During our pre-departure meeting in Baltimore, we studied different concepts and frameworks of leaderships. For example, how do astronauts on the International Space Station come together and form resilient teams in short time frames? Is leadership immutable and reserved for only a select few who are born with it? Spoiler: it isn’t. These topics of discussions served as a basis, which we then built upon once in country.
In country, and moving out of Bergen and up into the mountains, we delved deeper into topics of group response to danger and how to give tough feedback that helps people grow, just as we delved deeper into the unspoiled beauty of Norway. Each day featured appointed leaders of the day from the group and at day’s end we gathered and debriefed the team’s successes and failures. Hiking from one alpine hut to another, we practiced our pronunciation of Leirvassbu, Skogadelsbøen, and Olavsbu. Names now well etched into our memories.
Yet, each day also challenged our group to grow and stretch ourselves, not just mentally, but also physically. The course served as a mini leadership laboratory where we could make mistakes and learn. I, like many of my peers, learned a lot from the trip. The course aided me with a more complete understanding of leadership, especially the adaptability of leadership. Leadership is as varied as the landscape of Norway, and I learned the importance of vulnerability to build trust—a skill that helped those astronauts just as it helped our group.
Winding along the narrow roads that hugged the fjords with shores lined with tall pine trees on slopes plunging sharply into the pristine and crystal-clear waters, I had two immediate thoughts. First, I contemplated the fees to delay my departure flight to a later date. Second, I thought how inconceivable it could be for me to pair my love for the outdoors with a business education, let alone in such a majestic place as Norway. However, at Carey, I discovered that the school was unafraid to challenge traditional methods and established patterns of business education. Beyond that, the experience to not simply read case studies about leadership but to practice it is a rare opportunity that I encourage all, who can, to do.
Did I also mention how delicious that salmon was?
Editor’s Note: The Norway Leadership Development Expedition returns in 2019. Registration opens Monday, November 5th in SIS.