Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. —Publilius Syrus


Strong and cultivated leadership in today’s world is vital.

Every year we learn it’s not just about the harder, more palpable skills — but about mastering the softer, less illuminated skills; communication, empathy, authenticity, compassion, flexibility, and devotion. These are the skills which sometimes rarely make an appearance in a classroom but are vital to being successful in any relationship and career field.

And summer camp is the perfect environment to foster those leadership skills and learn about what kind of leader you want to be. 

Every time we speak, we are auditioning for leadership. Every action we take is a chance to grow and set ourselves apart. Sometimes we forget that just because we hold leadership positions, we aren’t automatically leaders. And the same goes if you turn it around: you do not have to hold a top-ranking title to be a leader.

A lot of times, especially with college students and young professionals, it takes time to move up the ladder. In a camp setting, you may be a college student coming to work at camp for the first time. This may be your first dose of a full-time, all-consuming job. But you don’t have to be the camp director to be a vital part of the camp’s core.

leadership on the tennis court

One of the things we must remember is to leave our ego at the door.

There are always going to be people who have done more than you and have more trophies and ribbons and titles.

The key is to be proud of the people around you, and continue to help them succeed. Whether you are working alongside team members or other counselors, or teaching younger campers or students, it’s important to go at everything with an attitude of appreciation.

The people you lead will be your biggest success. Maya Angelou once stated that just loving another person is a success story for you.

Being a good follower is also great practice for being a good leader. Good followers have a strong work ethic. They are honest and trustworthy and responsible. They make a leader’s job easier by helping to solve problems and by being a valuable and trustworthy ally. And the reality is that these very same skills help you grow into a leader as well.

Leadership is not brandishing authority; it’s empowering others. The best leaders keep their staff motivated and connected to the central mission. Whether you are leading a group project in school, teaching a soccer or ceramics class at camp, or overseeing a group of employees in a company meeting, leadership is all about empowerment and inspiration.

The goal is to focus on change, which then yields the results you want, as opposed to focusing only on the results with no real change at hand. This is where flexibility and adaptation are vital, and these two things are everywhere at camp. Change is always happening and turning the change into progress is key.

Also, consistency within your commitment is what ultimately transforms ideas into reality. Not everything can be achieved overnight but preparation and diligence can take you far.

Summer camp becomes one of the strongest opportunities to practice these skills and learn about yourself. You can explore who you want to become as a leader and how to become someone who wants to create positive and tangible change in yourself and the people around you.


It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse. – Adlai E. Stevenson II



Camp Kippewa leadership hike