Is there an animal you would love to see in its natural environment? While I am not a pet person, I have always enjoyed zoos, aquariums, and animal parks. I love seeing animals in a pseudo-natural environment.

As I roamed through the different exhibits, I wondered what it would look like to see a tiger, whale, or elephant in their habitat. Of course, you can watch nature shows, but it is not the same.

So, as my husband and I traveled through the Alaska interior on vacation, we decided to go whale watching. One of the best whale-watching locations is Icy Strait Point, located outside the town of Hoonah on Chichagof Island. 

According to their history, the Huna, a Tlingit tribe, have resided in the Icy Strait Point area for over a thousand years. Icy Strait Point is also the original home of the Hoonah Packing Company, which opened in 1912.

After the salmon cannery closed in the 1950s, the Huna Totem Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation, purchased and transformed the area to create Icy Strait Point, a private cruise port.

Once we arrived at Icy Strait Point, we boarded our whale-watching boat with Captain/Guide Andrew and First Mate Abby. As we left the dock, Captain Andrew gave us a safety briefing and a brief history of Chichagof Island. Then, as we approached our destination, Andrew and Abby shared the dos and don’ts of whale watching.

Over the next couple of hours, we watched the whales mesmerize us with their spouting, breaching, and tail slapping. Between sightings, we learned about whales’ migratory patterns, familial bonds, and personalities. Depending on the time of the year, you can see gray, fin, minke, and humpback whales. However, unlike their migratory cousins, orcas can be seen year-round in Alaska.

As we wrapped our trip, I wondered about the leadership lessons I learned from Andrew. Well, reflecting on the experience, there were three critical components to creating an exceptional whale watching experience:

  • Preparation: Andrew and Abby studied the local history of Icy Point Strait and Chichagof Island. Additionally, they understood whale migration.
  • Communication: They adapted their communication style to meet the needs of their customers. Our group ranged from children to senior citizens, so they adjusted their responses to questions based on the individual asking.
  • Collaboration: They anticipated whale sightings and worked with other boat captains to share the location. 

At the end of the trip, Captain Andrew exceeded our expectations. When my husband and I stepped off the boat, we agreed it was an excellent investment of our time and money.

Like Captain Andrew, leaders can create exceptional experiences for their team and organization by preparing, communicating, and collaborating with others.

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

-Walt Disney

Are you creating exceptional experiences for your organization?



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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

Hi, I'm Kim, Your Leadership Guide. I equip aspiring leaders to lead with confidence, emerging leaders to expand their influence, and accomplished leaders to achieve significance!