How One Year of Outdoor Leadership Training can make you a Top Class Manager

You need courage to take a one year sabbatical from work to train to be a future manager. Yet, if you do, the payback is enormous.

Let me take a moment to explain.

Everyone knows that as you grow older in an organisation, your skills grow and so does your responsibility. Likewise, the number of people you have to manage grows too.

Many think they can avoid taking on a management role; that they can specialise to be technologists. It really does not work that way. At some point or another, you need to work with a team. You need to do well and look to lead a team.

Most people think they can progressively “lean” in to a management role. That they will learn how to manage people. 

But in reality, most people are not good at managing people. Their organisations absorb a lot of their inefficiencies, sometimes reluctantly. So their future appraisals and promotions get shaky.

Add to it the new push towards automation. You may think it is hyped, but automation of tasks is definitely something to worry about.

Even at Indiahikes, software is taking out many of our mid management tasks. The entire operations of Indiahikes, which involves more than 12,000 trekkers in a year, is handled by only one person. Everything else is automated. Even as I write this article, a team of software engineers is bringing in more automation to our operations.    

To avoid a shaky future the safest thing to do is learn to be good at management of people.  The sooner you learn to do it, well, the better it is. Or else, like most people in mid career, you’ll find yourself fearful. The fear is straightforward too – you wonder if your skills are good enough for your position in the organisation to be future-proof.

This is where taking a year’s sabbatical from work and pursuing a leadership training in the outdoors may work better than anything else. It can make your career future proof, give rise to higher income and lead to more job satisfaction.

Helping groups of trekkers cross rivers or climb through mountain passes help learn the importance of team work. Picture by Vikrant Deshmukh

How will taking off from work, sacrificing money give you a better future?

First of all, one year of outdoor leadership training is not a holiday. You are at work and you are gaining valuable work experience. The work is serious and demanding.

Also, unknown to many, organisations love people who have done a training in leadership — especially in the outdoors. It is not seen as loss of work but a valuable skill that has been learnt.  

What does outdoor leadership training really mean?
A leadership training in the outdoors means learning how to be a leader in very difficult conditions. Not only are the conditions difficult, you are also forced to be a leader with real people, taking charge of real lives, in real situations.

While there are many kinds of outdoor leadership programmes, one of the most challenging one is being an outdoor leader in the Himalayas.  

At 15,000 feet, high up on a mountain pass in the Himalayas, leading a team through rough weather is when management challenges are at their peak. Every decision counts. They need to be taken every few minutes. Lives are in danger. Options are few.

When you overcome these challenges repeatedly, the leader in you emerges.

Initially, these tasks are daunting. But gradually over months you develop skills to take critical decisions; you learn to manage complex tasks.

Outdoor leadership training - Indiahikes - Buran Ghati
Being responsible for the lives of several people is one of the biggest challenges of being a trek leader. It helps you learn how to think on your feet and put others before yourself. Picture by Vinod Krishna

We have seen amazing transformations take place in our trek leaders within a month of joining. Those who have been around longer than a year have enviable leadership skills.   

An outdoor leadership training mirrors a course in MBA very closely
Like an MBA, our trek leaders also go through personal leadership activities, reflection programs and skill development training. In fact, the focus on training and learning is extremely high.

On a side note, the IIM (Indian Institute of Management, Indore) runs a credit program for their final year students with Indiahikes every year — such is the importance they give to outdoor leadership training.

A wrong notion people have is that up in the Himalayan mountains, trek leaders are having a good time, wandering in the mountains. Nothing is further from the truth. While our trek leaders do get an opportunity to be in some of the greatest mountain sceneries in the world, the work they do is grueling, requires continuous training and is a lot of hard work.

An outdoor leadership program has everything that happens in an MBA program. Yet, it is many times more.

Here is what you learn through outdoor leadership training:

  • Developing leaders through challenging expeditions
  • The importance of building and maintaining positive relationships
  • Using the right leadership style at the right time
  • Providing the space for others growth and development
  • Development of trust in the face of contingent outcomes
  • Finding the balance between risk and safety
  • The meaning of the big picture

The Indiahikes Outdoor Leadership Program (OLP)

This is a one year outdoor leadership program as a trek leader with Indiahikes. The first month is spent as an Assistant Trek Leader (ATL). During this period you learn the ropes of basic trek leading, safety guidelines. You also shadow a trek leader. After the first month you move on to become a Probational Trek Leader (PTL). This is a period where you start active trek leading. During this period you get trained on mountain knowledge, leadership skills, rescue and safety management.  

The PTL period lasts 3 months, following which you become a Trek Leader with Indiahikes.

The outdoor leadership program lasts 12 months (including the ATL and PTL period). After the program ends, you are given a certificate of leadership and a work experience letter that details the leadership program you have been through.

How to apply

First check whether you fulfil the following eligibility criteria.

  • Minimum 25 years old
  • Minimum 2 years work experience
  • You have an active fitness regime. Your BMI (Body Mass Index) must be between 18.5 and 24.9.
  • You have excellent English and Hindi communication skills
  • You do not smoke or drink.  

Selection is based on written and two rounds of online interviews. Every month we select three participants for this program.

All selected participants earn a stipend of Rs 3 lakhs during the course of the program.

To apply email Swathi: CC Arjun

Subject: Outdoor Leadership Programme.

Your application must include a resume, brief work history, and a cover letter detailing why you wish to apply for the OLP.

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Arjun Majumdar

Arjun Majumdar

An entrepreneur by profession and a trekker by passion, Arjun started Indiahikes in 2008. Long years of trekking and facing problems in getting information about trails led Arjun to start Indiahikes. With a vision to explore and document new trails, solve problems in the mountains and implement sustainable ways of trekking, he leads Indaihikes, a community that has changed the face of trekking in India.

15 thoughts on “How One Year of Outdoor Leadership Training can make you a Top Class Manager

  1. Hi Mr. Majumdar,

    This is such a wonderful initiative. Congratulations!

    I wish the IndiaHikes team and the program all success. I did send a link (book on learning from Trek Leaders) to Prathima.

    Suggestion: A brief note (from you directly) to TATA Trusts may help leverage this wonderful initiative to over 100 TATA Co’s. You may already be aware of TSAF (founded in 1984 and led by Ms. Bachendri Pal). Similar notes (from you directly) to Aditya Birla Group and Mahindra Group may evoke positive responses. Further, collaboration with National Geographic and World Wild Life may yield global response.

    Once again, all the best.

  2. Hi Mr. Majumdar,
    It’s a very innovative program in its own capacity. I would request you to put some thought on a program which has a shorter duration as well(1-2 months). People in Sr. Management roles(having more than 10 years of work-ex) usually do not get an opportunity to take a 1 year sabbatical. Besides they would have bigger responsibilities when compared to someone with 2 years of work-ex (family, children etc; assuming most of them with 2-3 years work-ex are unmarried).
    I appreciate your reply.

    1. Hello Prashanth
      The Outdoor Leadership Program is designed for those who will be able to take out 1 year to undergo training. Anything lesser than that will not serve the purpose. It is more than just a trek.

    1. Hi Vivek, we have found that one year is the required time to actually gain the skills required. If we shorten it, you’ll be leaving the slopes by the time you actually get the hang of it. If you have anything between 8-12 months, write to us. Perhaps we can work around it.

  3. I know the value of such training as I have learned it the hard way. I wish such programs were available when I was young. This 1 year will go a long way in your career and life.

  4. Dear Team, congratulations on running such a informative program. I would like to know after completing this program are there any scope of pursuing career in this field only as I am very keen on working as a trekker.
    Any organization who are giving permanent career in this field.

    1. Hi Naveen, after the OLP course, there is scope to get absorbed into further trek leading or managing of Ops. But the shelf life of trek leading as a career is just around 2 years and not longer than that. It is physically draining and it is nearly impossible to carry on with the role longer than that.

    1. Hello Prachi
      You will have to bear the cost of travelling to the base camp. The rest of the costs will be taken care of by us.

  5. An outdoor leadership training usually brings a lot of thrill among the trainees. It contains so many theoretical and pragmatic elements, and this is the main reason why all the trainees get excited when they are going to be involved in such a highly beneficial course. Core skills are the intrinsic part of this curriculum and mainly this is provided to enhance the communication skills and other performance related traits of the trainees. I am completely agree with your perception and I think if an individual attends this outdoor leadership program for an year, then it will definitely transform into a skilled manager within in that period.

  6. Hi IndiaHikes Team,
    Just want to understand what the schedule is like for this program. How many treks do we lead, how many days in training and how many will be off? Please email me if you can share these details.

    1. Hello Toshita
      This will entirely depend upon the season. You will be leading our treks for each season just like our other Trek Leaders. The only difference will be that you will be on a one year contract with us. Hope this clarifies your doubts. If not, you can email me on

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