At Camp Manito-wish YMCA, we take a carefully-crafted approach to leadership development. Each session is customized to the specific goals, schedule and comfort level of your group. Our expert facilitators utilize specialized sites, a variety of training tools and initiatives , and the unique opportunities offered in our lakefront setting to guide participants through progressive, hands-on exercises. This deliberate approach does more than instruct and inspire — it works.



What makes Manito-wish Leadership Development the right choice for your group? The same factors that make our program so unique, efficient and effective. Here, our curriculum is crafted by leadership professionals according to the goals of each group, and administered via a comprehensive variety of resources. Every group we serve — from high schools and colleges to youth-serving agencies and community organizations — has access to a range of efficient and impactful educational tools that are proven to perform.


Effective Leadership training takes more than a few hours on a ropes course, or a day in classroom exercises. It requires a careful review of a group’s goals, experience and comfort level and the ability to draw from an entire family of leadership resources in a way that delivers the best results. At Manito-wish, we utilize four resource areas — Wilderness Travel, Manito-wish Leadership Center, Experiential Programming, and the Lang Challenge Course — to achieve success.


Learning leadership skills is an ongoing evolution, so we are pleased to offer a program that reflects that reality. We provide a family of flexible leadership training options, from short-duration curriculum to programs that span semesters and years, building on challenges and expanding lessons as participants progress through the program.


In leadership development, one size never fits all. There are always factors in play, from group age, experience and dynamics, to schedule and budget, to the specific outcomes you hope to achieve. At Camp Manito-wish YMCA, our professional facilitators take all of these factors into consideration to draw upon our resources and expertise to create a completely customized curriculum to match your group and your goals. We can even plan a program that complements and enhances your existing leadership curriculum.


The shortest distance to leadership capacity isn’t necessarily via a straight line. Leadership training is a journey, with constant checks and balances. Our professional facilitators have the insight and expertise to assess each stage of the process, recognize what’s working and what’s not, and adapt the program in-progress to achieve the best results.


We believe everyone has the potential to be a great leader — and our Leadership Development Program is dedicated to unlocking it. This comprehensive program — created and refined over 95 years, and administered by professionally trained leadership facilitators —focuses on instilling the 21st century leadership skills of critical thinking, innovation, adaptability, personal awareness and perseverance — with an emphasis on collaboration.


The world presents many unique situations and challenges, and many different leadership models to meet them. At Manito-wish, we reviewed the leadership landscape to identify the model that would provide the most relevant and effective model to address the most common real-world situations.

Those situations? Leading effectively from within a diverse group of people. The model? Collaborative leadership.

Our program — developed and guided by research, history and the insights of decades of participants — has identified eight qualities of collaborative leadership that we seek to instill:

  1. Building a shared vision
  2. Building models…trying it, changing it, trying it again
  3. Sharing a common space with others
  4. Allowing others to amplify their abilities
  5. Understanding that followership and leadership go together
  6. Doesn’t collaborate to turn out the lights
  7. Practices Environmental Stewardship
  8. Celebrating successful collaborations

From the strong foundation of these eight qualities, the Manito-wish Collaborative Model of Leadership has been applied to countless groups and individuals, reviewed by Experiential Education experts, enhanced by recognized 21st century learning leadership skills, and continuously refined over decades, with impressive results.

The secret to our program’s success? It’s easy to understand. It’s logical. It’s engaging. It has real-world applications. And it works.


Manito-wish has a long history of promoting character and leadership development. Our dedication to the cause can be traced back to 1919.

That spring found Walter “Daddy” H. Wones, H.E. Andrews and Judge E. B. Beldon searching for the perfect place to establish a summer camp for the State of Wisconsin YMCA. An early champion of leadership development, Wones believed that the plentiful lakes, forests and rivers of Wisconsin’s Northwoods would provide youth with the opportunity to encounter a variety of hands-on leadership challenges and experiences.

Wones was correct. Through the decades, Manito-wish program participants would go into the wilderness, and go on to become leaders in business, education, industry, service organizations and government. In turn, their continuous support and insights through the decades helped the program grow, define the qualities of a “Manito-wish leader,” and refine our curriculum and methods.

In 1998, the accumulated knowledge and insights from the Manito-wish Summer Camp and Outpost (wilderness travel) programs formed the basis for the next great evolutionary step: The formal Manito-wish Leadership Development Program. Created by Manito-wish alumni and nationally-renowned leadership specialists, its focus was collaborative leadership — a model that identified the many positive qualities shared by leaders who had experienced Manito-wish.

Over time, the program evolved further, incorporating additional characteristics now identified as 21st century leadership skills, adopting a more flexible structure and delivery, and expanding its program resources.

Today, the Manito-wish Leadership Development Program is recognized as one of the foremost programs of its kind in the United States, providing a comprehensive array of leadership training to high schools, colleges and universities, and youth-serving agencies.


“Condensed Leadership Experience” – an introductory one-to-three-day program that features customized programming drawn from two or three Leadership Resource areas, based on the goals and objectives of your group. May also include meals and accommodations, based on your needs and wishes.

“Comprehensive Leadership Experience” — a stimulating four-day-or-longer engagement that features customized programming (see “Condensed Leadership Experience” above) along with a Wilderness Travel component.

“Leadership yoU” – a complete four-year program that features a four-day experience every school year. As each class returns for a subsequent year, the progressive nature of the program presents the participants with new opportunities to experience and new challenges to overcome, providing them with a leadership development opportunity unmatched in comprehensiveness and effectiveness.




What a great treat to see 12 advanced trips come in and learn about the trail experiences of each of them. They start at camp, go off on a well planned and executed long wilderness experience, and return to camp on the same day, 12 different groups. No one else does this!
K. H.