Hello! My name is Lauren Williams, and I am the Marketing Intern for Music for All. I just returned from the Leadership Weekend Experience at Taylor University "Escape to Reality" challenge course, and I am guest blogging about the students’ time there and the valuable lessons they learned.
The first activity I could see as I approached the Leadership site was the zip line. Students put on harnesses, and they were challenged to climb to the top platform using metal rungs on a structure resembling a telephone pole. This is not an easy feat as it requires concentration, determination and bravery to reach the top platform. Once there, the students took a thrilling ride down to the end of the clearing. Those who accepted the challenge of climbing to the top learned to step out of their comfort zones and face their fears.
Close by, other students were taking the ropes course challenge. Harnessed and hoisted to the top of the course, students tested their balance and coordination by walking the tight rope and even leaping for a trapeze – 25 to 30 feet above the ground! I was amazed at their bravery, and when they were lowered back down; they couldn’t stop grinning from the excitement.
Next, the students met with Tom Pompei, Natural Horsemanship professional, and his trusty steed Spark.
Pompei related the skittish nature of horses to new members on a team. In a new environment, people become intimidated and may shy away from new experiences. To be a good leader, one must show the newcomers that they are welcome and cared for, and soon they will become comfortable and trusting, just like a horse. A good leader also needs to pay attention and cater to different personalities (like extroverts and introverts) to achieve effective leadership. Finally, a good leader will use positive and encouraging language to guide their team to success. These three L’s—love, language, and leadership—are the keys to working well with a team.
Pompei’s next activity involved splitting everyone up into pairs and using empty water bottles to make their partner perform a certain action. One person got a piece of paper saying what the action was (like jumping jacks or a salute) and had to make the other perform it by tapping them with the bottle. For instance, the instructor would tap their partner’s hand and then their forehead to make them do a salute. The only rule was that they couldn’t talk to each other. Some students were able to get it right away, but others had a harder time. The lesson was that leadership isn’t about telling people what to do, it’s about learning how to adapt and guide them to success in a way they can relate to and understand. Everyone communicates differently, and leadership takes patience and careful attention, even if it gets frustrating.
After lunch, I tagged along with a group of students through the woods to another rope challenge. The group stood on one side of a small, circular clearing and used a swinging rope to reach one of the three wooden platforms on the other side. They had to go one by one until everyone was on one of the three platforms. As people crossed over, space on the platforms became tight. The only rule was that if someone’s feet touched the ground, they had to completely start over. It took a few tries, but they were able to complete the challenge by holding on tight and making sure nobody fell off until the last person was over. This activity taught them that when working on a team, the success of every individual is critical to the success of the team as a whole. Every person needs to support his or her teammates in any way possible to achieve the team’s goal. It was so refreshing to hear the sincere words of encouragement they shared with each other as each student prepared to swing to the platforms.
Even though I was just observing and taking photos, the positive energy of the Taylor University Leadership Weekend Experience was so strong that I couldn’t help but feel like a part of it myself. The students learned extremely valuable lessons about teamwork and leadership that will not only aid them in their musical endeavors, but also with their education, friendships, and future career choices.