iD8 Strategies


What can we learn from the Lewis & Clark expedition?

Leadership Leaves Clues  

Life is an adventure as is scaling up a business. As Verne Harnish accurately states, there are Start-Up’s & Scale-Up’s. The choice is yours to make. 

What journey are you pursuing?

The SBA (small business association) states generally that 80% of the businesses formed today will not make it five-years. Of those that beat these odds, 80% of those will not make it to see their 10th Anniversary.


My experience as a serial entrepreneur, they simply give up. They also tend not to trust nor follow the simple success clues that are right in front of us.

Lewis & Clark never gave up against staggering odds. Their commitment and vision drove what is still widely regarded as the most successful leadership team in American history. They inspired absolute loyalty in each other and with their team. About 48 men and 

Sacagawea (the Shoshone teenager who carried her infant son on her back for 5,000 of the expedition’s 8,000 miles) completed what has been heralded as one of the greatest adventures of all time.

Just like a business, they needed capital. The expedition had a cost of $50,000, well over one million in today’s dollars. Covering more than 8,000 miles over 863 days, logistics & proper planning played a key part of their success. Thousands of pounds of food, supplies, and equipment were needed and back then they did not have Humvee’s to haul their gear. Only one man died, from a burst appendix, something even a doctor could not have fixed back then. Although the obstacles they faced are unlike what we deal with in business, the wolves, weather and life-threatening incidents and other challenging issues they persevered can be compared in business to competitors, external forces we cannot control, and people we need to perform at peak levels. Our team do not need 6000 calories per day, but they need feed and caring just in a different form

And they require leadership and clear objectives!

Lewis & Clark had three main objectives, map and study the region as they built relationships with the Native Americans, locate a water route in the western parts of North America, build a presence in these areas before anyone else claimed it! 

Like in business, they could not predict how things would turn out or if they would even survive. But there are lessons they learned, and we can learn from, that is certain!

Leadership Lessons of Lewis and Clark

  1. The Principle of a Higher Calling. They had a clear purpose, why does your business exist? When your team wakes up, do they understand the live this purpose with commitment?
  2. The Principle of Shared Leadership. All the brains in the room are smarter than any one brain. What does ideation, collaborating, and communication look like in your Company right now?
  3. The Principle of Strategic Preparation. How much time are you and your team investing on strategy, detailed planning with accountabilities and inspection points built in?
  4. The Principle of Diversity. Lewis & Clark were certainly ahead of their time, right? Are people selected on skills, culture fit and GRIT or tenure?
  5. The Principle of Compassionate Discipline. The book The One-Minute Manager comes to mind, be quick, be honest, move on with an understanding of what great looks like!
  6. The Principle of Leading from the Front. There is an enormous difference of telling someone to take the hill vs being the first one leading the charge. 
  7. The Principle of Learning from Others. Nobody has the corner on all the best ideas. Making the final decision is one thing, getting input from others is just smart business. A wise man learns from others, a super-wise man learns from the experience of others!
  8. The Principle of Positive Thinking. Optimism and hope drives teams to higher levels of performance. Vision is seeing the future before it happens.
  9. The Principle of Aggressive Analysis. DDD – Data driven decisions. KPI’s – Key performance indicators. Did Lewis & Clark have a Moneyball stat? What facts and data did they collect and use to make key decisions? Waze and weather apps did not exist back then.
  10. The Principle of Developing Team Spirit. Every company has a Culture, it may not just be the one that drives peak performance. This about the Navy Seals and Tier One Special Forces – wonderful examples we can use to build an amazing culture (team spirit) in our Companies.

Life and building a great business are certainly adventures, few lived adventure more than Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.