by Outward Bound

Leaning in and leaning out

Many of you will have read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, which talks about how women are hindered by barriers that exist within themselves in addition to the external barriers erected by society.

Sandberg says that as women we lower our own expectations of what we can achieve, which keeps us from advancing.  Controversially she also says it’s because we don’t have the self-confidence and drive that many men do.  “Everyone needs to get more comfortable with female leaders, including female leaders themselves.”

Tania Gough, of Savvy at Work, agrees that as women we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be “leaning in”.

These internal factors are under our own control so we can start making an adjustment or difference right now.  As women, we need to identify what we need to change in order to advance our careers and our organisations and become leaders.

One way we can practice new ways of acting and thinking in a safe and supportive environment, is to take time out from the office.  This allows us space and often the clarity to identify where change is needed and how to address it.

A course in confidence

Lawyer Lisa Brown did just that recently, trading her office for the bush as a participant in our inaugural Outward Bound ‘Women in Leadership’ course in Anakiwa.  In her job as prosecutions manager for the Ministry for Primary Industries and overseeing five offices throughout the central and southern regions, Lisa says she learned a lot while she was away; about herself, her management style and how to manage others.

Outward Bound gave me the confidence to take risks and believe in my abilities.  I valued the 360 degree feedback from my peers and colleagues who also attended – and the opportunities to watch other women lead in a different style from me.

She added,

We are capable of so much more than we think.  The outdoor activities pushed me to my limits and leading a team, and being part of a team in quite intense circumstances was often a challenge, but so rewarding when we reached our goals.

Growth and self-awareness

Lisa’s colleague Stacey Parker also attended the course. She liked the idea of having an adventure and was excited by the prospect of being challenged.

I want to continually grow and not remain the same.  I saw the course as an opportunity to learn and develop in areas of leadership.  Much like Lisa, by stepping away from the daily routine of the office I was able to grow more confidence in myself, in my ability to go to the next tier as a leader, and in my decision making and in my risk taking.  I have a greater understanding of my strengths and weaknesses both in the work place and personally.

I think a really important part of being a good leader is having a strong self-awareness and Outward Bound definitely set the scene for reflection and growth.

Leadership from the inside out

“It’s often said that true leadership is built from the inside out,” says Tania.  In her view, an experience such as Outward Bound focusses on building courage and resilience and developing the core of leadership, which is about a person’s character – themes not usually covered in your typical corporate training and development courses run in hotel rooms.

Being exposed to different leadership styles in action was really inspirational,” Lisa reflected. “You learn to have the courage of your convictions on so many levels, which is vital for an effective leader.  We are extremely thankful and changed forever by this experience.”

Building better teams

While Lisa enjoyed the course’s challenges, it has been since coming home and returning to work that she has been able to put her learnings into practice.

I learned how important collaboration is. Prior to the course, I had the members of my team working autonomously in various geographical locations around the South Island.  To see them working more cohesively I’ve arranged for them to have ‘away days’ where they come together, get to know each other and take risks and be creative through challenges and tasks I set.  I realised the true worth of team values and how they can be used to engage a team. The feedback from the ‘away days’ was 100% positive, with some remarking it was the best team building they’d ever been on.  A lot of great ideas came out of it.

Lisa says she also learned new ways to encourage staff to step up and take charge.

From watching the course instructors, I have delegated more, encouraged quieter members of my team to speak up and take on bigger roles, and implemented rotating chairs at meetings to share the leadership role around.

I’m sure my experience in Anakiwa and the lessons I learned there have greatly contributed to me being able to build a better team, a better approach and a better me.


Outward Bound’s Women in Leadership course is tailored to help current or aspiring female managers increase their awareness of who they are, what they value and how they can extend their impact within organisations.  Spaces are available to attend a five-day course at Outward Bound in Anakiwa from 11 – 15 September, 2017.  Course fees are $3950.

For more information, go here or phone 0800 OUTWARD.

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