Featured Article


I was first inspired to the term “expedition behavior” in Adam Grant’s book, “Give and Take” to describe the approach of George Myers, not so famous writer and producer of “The Simpsons.”

It is a term coined by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) which has provided wilderness education to thousands of people, including crews of NASA astronauts. In an expedition, equally important to expedition skills and equipment is the need to be able to relate well and get along with our fellow travelers. Paul Petzoldt coined the term “Expedition Behavior” to describe these skills but they also describe rules for leading responsibly on any type of expedition. Our leadership endeavors in organizations can be just as challenging as a climb up K2 or Kilimanjaro.

Mark Harvey from NOLS, says this about Expedition Behavior: “Human relations play an equally important role (in relation to all the important factors in safe expedition, such as equipment, skills, etc.). To be blunt, how well you get along with your travel mates can mean the difference between enjoying the wilds or detesting every second of it; between summiting a peak or getting hopelessly lost in the process. That you need to get along and communicate effectively with your travel companions probably seems obvious.”
This sounds to me like a beautiful way of framing servant leadership that applies in any organization, indoors or outdoors. Here are fourteen core expedition behaviors from “The NOLS Leadership Educator Notebook: A Toolbox for Leadership Educators”

  1. Serve the mission and goals of the group.
  2. Be as concerned for others as you are for yourself.
  3. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
  4. Support leadership and growth in everyone.
  5. Respect the cultures you come into contact with.
  6. Be kind and open-hearted.
  7. Do your share and stay organized.
  8. Help others, but don’t routinely do their work.
  9. Model integrity by being honest and accountable.
  10. Admit and correct your mistakes.
  11. Be proud of your successes and build on these.
  12. Say yes and deliver, or say no clearly if you cannot do something.
  13. Find a healthy balance: work hard, play, reflect and rest.
  14. Resolve conflict in a productive manner

As Grant conveys in “Give and Take,” “Expedition behavior is NOT a zero-sum game: when you give it away, you gain more in response.”

Where will you employ some of these Expedition Behaviors in your leadership today?

How can you use the “expedition” metaphor to teach your team?

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

What People Are Saying

There are no comments yet, why not be the first to leave a comment?

Join The Conversation