An analysis of how successful leaders share the same attributes, skills & qualities as adventurers
How many people become great leaders and want dull days? How many would be satisfied with a 9 to 5 job that just gently ebbs and flows?
We know that most leaders take on their roles for the excitement and challenge. They enjoy and learn from new and often difficult experiences.
They love the buzz. The thrill of successfully transforming an organisation. They have the will and courage to take risks.
In my view, these types of leaders share the same attributes, skills and qualities as adventurers and use them to inspire those they work with to be the very best versions of themselves and support a business to thrive
Adventurous Leadership keeps an organisation on its toes, ahead of the competitive curve, ensuring continuous growth and success. Adventurous Leaders steer organisations through adversity in our ever-changing world where the impact of local, national and global events and changes are continuously being felt, embracing the challenges and navigating safe passage and, ultimately, survival.
They bring vitality, vigour, and vivacity to the lifeblood of all organisations – its people, opening eyes, widening horizons, and encouraging colleagues and teams in all professional aspects.
So, what is an ‘adventurer’?
“A person who enjoys or seeks adventure”
“A person willing to take risks”
“Someone who enjoys and looks for exciting experiences”
“A person who enjoys going to new and exciting places.”
Now let’s look at this from a leadership perspective.
Leaders need to discover or, in some cases, re-discover, that spirit of adventure to help them inspire their people and drive their organisation forward.
Just as an adventurer embraces challenges, is dynamic and has a palpable energy that inspires others, successful leaders create an organisational culture of creativity and innovation, transforming others and their business via exciting, enthusiastic, and energising leadership.
We witness the attributes and skills of adventurers mirrored in successful change leaders. Without a leader’s adventurous spirit, drive, energy and inspiration, an organisation’s growth will slow and plateau, gradually falling behind others.
Eventually it will become stagnant and stall completely. The demise of a business may well hang in the balance and forced change will be the only solution to prevent total collapse.
The curious, risk-taking explorer
Adventurous leaders always have an inquiring mind, like their adventurer counterparts.
They are curious. They ask questions and explore their environment – both inside and outside of their organisation. They scan horizons to understand what is happening around them so they can anticipate and identify new opportunities, to be in the very best position to meet the changing needs of their business.
They are always driven to seek new and better things – be these experiences, professional roles, services, or products.
Risk is the bedrock of their progress. Without taking risks, leaders get stuck, and their organisation invariably trails behind their competitors.
The purposeful expedition leader
Both know that key to driving successful change and delivering success is securing the commitment of others.
This doesn’t come easily and needs both conviction and an ability to engage with a compelling and clear purpose – the ‘why’, for the actions to be undertaken. It’s a critical step in combatting the instinct of people to resist change.
Adventurers and successful change leaders excel at this. They’re able to rally people to the cause, inspiring them to venture into unchartered territory with enthusiasm, passion, and commitment.
The resilient, ever-day learner
Just like adventurers, effective leaders demonstrate resilience and a strong tolerance to adversity.
They bounce back after suffering setbacks, embracing the challenge, and moving on with optimism rather than dwelling on failure.
Their positive mindset focuses on what can be done, not what can’t be, and they will often use humility and humour to lighten the load during difficult times.
Likewise, leaders are constantly learning how to learn. For example:
- on the go – through everyday experiences;
- by reflection, looking back and assessing the outcomes of actions, ready to adapt their approach next time;
- through looking around them, listening to others – peers, colleagues, clients, suppliers and using everyday conversations and experiences to explore better ways of working.
A leader’s ability to ask the right questions plus their capacity to listen and learn, are essential in our modern world where the sheer pace and magnitude of disruption requires dynamic forward thinking, rather than a reliance on old habits.
You need more than enthusiasm and passion to truly get buy in from people. You need great communication skills, the ability to collaborate and to be seen to care about the people you’re leading.
That’s what spurs people into action and ensures they remain committed to the journey, even when things get difficult.
The inspiring communicator
A true adventurer brings their vision alive with vivid stories.
Their infectious enthusiasm radiates from their presence and how they talk. They’re clear and consistent in what they say – and everything about them emanates authenticity, honesty, openness, and vulnerability.
They always know their audience and, because of this, know exactly the right words, language and tone to use that will resonate, engage and foster trust.
They lead by example. There’s no doubt they’re committed to their values and they live and breathe the behaviours they expect of others.
Likewise, successful change leaders inspire their people using the same aptitudes, helping to raise their confidence and engage their colleagues on a potentially challenging journey.
The boundary-spanning collaborator
Adventurers regularly need to work with different organisations and teams to get their expedition started and completed safely. They develop internal and external collaborations that add real value, bringing different operational skills together, as well as people who can assess the impact of specific decisions from different perspectives.
They are approachable and inclusive, allowing and encouraging all members to contribute.
In an organisational context, such boundary-spanning partnerships across different teams, departments or directorates delivers similar outcomes. Wider collaboration brings to the surface the impact that change in one area of the organisation may have on another.
By removing ‘functional silos’, information and decision-making flows more easily to help implement change.
The emotionally intelligent supporter
An adventurer enjoys connecting with others. They are sensitive to others’ feelings and value harmony – but they will always explore conflict rather than shy away from it.
They’re connected to their people and able to unlock the potential of those around them to get the best out of them. They listen, boosting morale where needed.
They’re aware of their own strengths and who to pull in at the right time for their expertise. And they’re humble enough to know they don’t have all the answers and that others may have the solution.
For a successful leader, tapping into and potentially developing further such emotional intelligence has never been more essential following Covid-19 and in the wake of local, national and global challenges, including the war in Ukraine and rising costs of living. We know these events cause genuine conflict and fear, so modern, effective leadership needs to embody valued qualities such as empathy and understanding.
When travelling from A to B, somebody must set the direction that others will follow.
Whether it’s an exploration or a change initiative, a plan or a route map is required to drive successful implementation.
Leaders set this direction.
The focussed initiator
It’s an adventurer who initiates the expedition, just like a leader initiates change.
They do it by evaluating the current situation, the case for the journey, its purpose, the vision and the desired outcome and goals that need to be achieved.
This is the essential first step. Without this, there is no solid foundation for the journey.
The accomplished strategiser
To champion a new journey – be it an expedition or change initiative – the adventurer or leader needs a clear strategy and action plan.
This planning includes listening to others, especially with regards to concerns or questions, and clearly defining what success looks like.
At this stage, focus is always on the bigger picture, not the minutia, as its for other members of the team to plan out steps in detail and manage the specific detail of the process. This is about leadership, not management.
The agile executor
Getting the right people in the right roles at the right time underpins the successful execution of any plan.
This includes confirmation of responsibilities and accountabilities from the outset so that everyone is clear.
Likewise, metrics for success need to be mapped and understood, with milestones in place to identify progress to help celebrate success – and effectively manage unexpected issues when they arise.
Leaders need to be ready to flex their approach and change direction or strategy based on the challenges they face along the way.
Like the adventurer, agility in thinking and preparedness to divert the path to successfully overcome an obstacle, is essential for successful leaders.
It’s clear that successful leaders of change and innovation share the same skills and key attributes of adventurers, but we also know that this sometimes doesn’t exist where it needs to, or it has disappeared in leaders due to burn-out, boredom or personal reasons.
Space and time – too often seen as luxuries, are essential for leaders to assess their position and their needs. Headspace – to plan and implement a strategy for professional development that includes opportunities to reflect, be inspired and be energised, key to transforming their leadership.
JFA’s Adventurous Leadership programme provides exactly that in the stunning setting of an Icelandic residential. The programme supports executives and leaders to explore their own ‘spirit of adventure’, attitudes, skills and strategies needed to create a thriving culture of change and innovation to lead their organisation to greater success.
Come and join us on a voyage of discovery and conquer your leadership potential!
We’ll provide the guide, the compass and the route map, leaving you to focus completely on your experience.1st June 2022