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The Outdoor Leader

Jeannette Stawski is OutGrowth's featured writer this month, and shared with us an excerpt from The Outdoor Leader (March 2024). Published by Mountaineers Books. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

In her upcoming book, author Jeannette Stawski explores the skillsets and techniques behind transformational, equitable leadership. Whether you’re an outdoor professional or new to spending time in nature, you’ll draw inspiration from the wisdom of The Outdoor Leader.

Read our Q+A with Jeannette below, and be sure to check out her October feature in En Root!

This month's theme is all about resilience. Tell us how this theme has played a role in your personal or professional life.

This has been an especially trying year for me. I lost my mom unexpectedly at the start of the year. I have been helping care for my father who lives hours away as he navigates dementia. My oldest graduated from high school and last week we dropped her off at college. My youngest left for a month for an incredible music experience and he started high school today. Running a national non-profit through a global pandemic is proving to be increasingly challenging. So, resilience is something that I am working hard on, and in. As I navigate all these complex situations - of loss, of change, of transitions, I am working hard on both being present and feeling, not pushing down the emotions. I am working to not attempt to “rush through” the hard and uncomfortable in seeking solace and relief, but rather trying to find the joy and beauty in what I can not see, and a friend has shared, as the seasons of life. Yes, soon enough, as the cold, wet, and rainy days of fall change to fresh snow, even during the dark and short days I also can find the good in a warm blanket, a hug from a loved one, and talking around the firepit. I have been asking for help as well as expressing that I am struggling. I am surrounding myself with the people and the activities that I enjoy, and also releasing some of the pressures to do it all.

At OutGrowth, we believe in designing the space and time to reimagine the path forward. How do you believe building resilience can impact our perspective and influence our future decisions?

In reflecting on a particularly challenging period years ago in my career as an Executive Director, being resilient during that time gave me a wider perspective and allowed me to learn that some of the negative stories I was telling myself about my leadership were simply that - stories. At that time I was paralyzed in making decisions because of fear of negative responses to changes I was leading. After moving through those seasons of discomfort, and having implemented some significant changes, I now can see that moving through was better than staying still. Applying this knowledge today, I can make bigger decisions more easily and I don’t get as mired in fear, but rather implement and then reassess. I’ve learned to seek more and wider sources of feedback as well, ever widening my lens and ultimately allowing me to serve more and a wider array of members better.

What is one hard lesson you learned in this past year that contributed to your growth?

I know I am resilient. I’ve completed a book that shares many stories of where I have been resilient! What I learned this year is how to be gentle on myself and be aware of not hardening or pushing people away as I navigate many big life changes.

What is one competency or skill you hope to develop in 2023 and beyond?

I recently completed an executive coaching program. I am currently doing my pro-bono coaching sessions and working on how I can be the best coach for those I will be supporting on their leadership journey. I am learning about how to be thoughtful and present in our sessions, and how to make sure the hour people spend with me is the most impactful of their week!

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in nature, in travel, and in friendship. I gain a sense of groundedness when I am outdoors that allows me to see possibilities in my ideas and thoughts I would not otherwise experience or concepts that I can connect as I hike, or swim, or sit and listen to the wind. I like the feeling of adventure when I travel, navigating new communities and cultures and trying to experience what a local does [in my mind] as I watch them from a cafe or sit in a plaza or navigate a foreign language. The colors seem brighter, the food tastier, the music more lively! And finally, I am constantly inspired by my friendships. I have been reflecting on the friends who I have known my entire life as well as those who I met at various life stages, and I am inspired by how they see the world and what they share about their dreams and aspirations.

At OutGrowth, we believe in preparing the next generation of leaders. What is one resource you'd recommend to those looking to carve out the time for growth in the next year?

The Failure Lab - I love the idea of walking through and with failure as an opportunity to grow rather than something to avoid. I have been thankful to be introduced and inspired by Anna Baeten - and I think the work she is leading and Failure Lab is doing is NOT to be missed.

Humanergy - High Impact Leadership Training? Sign Me Up. I have participated in trainings and received coaching and I find their leadership model - centered on choice - as well as their work on “What Great Teams Do Great” to be impactful, transferable and transformational.

What's next? What are you excited about in the coming year?

I am looking forward to the release of my book, The Outdoor Leader. I am learning about how I can better amplify the book and its message to help people be the best leader they can be. I aspire to do more public speaking as well as begin some executive coaching to help others lead.


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