Multiple Sectors | Chief Executives | Development


ScaleUp Scotland is the flagship business leadership development programme of the Sir Tom Hunter Foundation.  An 18-month module-based programme aimed at ambitious CEOs and firms with the potential to grow sales beyond £25m, it draws on leadership excellence across the Scottish business ecosystem to offer a blend of experiential, peer-to-peer and online learning, and network development.


The client required a 3-day module for 20 CEOs that would enable them to get to know one another and explore key leadership skills through collective inquiry into: What more is possible for my business when I create a supportive, psychologically safe team environment, and approach decision-making with greater self-, other-, and situational awareness?”


We formed a mixed male/female team (our standard practice) led by a former special forces officer who has also led at executive and non-executive levels in private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, and who is also an experienced coach, facilitator, and consultant.

He was supported by an NHS hospital consultant who also works across the UK and internationally developing high-performing teams in high-consequence environments. The third member of the team was a former Accenture partner and now an international biopharma CEO. Finally, we were supported by the Ochils Mountain Rescue Team.

The 3-day experiential programme, based out of Stirling Court Hotel on the university campus, included: a deep disclosure exercise to accelerate trust between delegates; an outdoor walkshop in sub-groups and in plenary that explored an ethically challenging scenario to unearth personal bias and inter-personal conflict in decision making; and carefully framed outdoor activities (including orienteering and blindfolded abseiling) to explore communication, team-working, and collective decision-making.

On the final day the cohort was asked to organise themselves into a standby mountain rescue team, supported by mentors from the Ochils Mountain Rescue Team. Inevitably (!), they were called out by “Police Scotland” and had to manage three concurrent rescue situations in the hills overlooking Stirling, including a final life or death triage. This highly experiential exercise brought the various lines of inquiry into stark relief and presented a climax around the behaviours and inter-personal skills each leader was committing to experiment with back in their businesses.


“What an amazing 3 days it was, and I am now looking forward to Monday, putting new skills and insights into practice, and changing the way we communicate and interact with one another and make decisions.” CEO participant.

“It was a fantastic three days! Well done to you and the team for creating such a memorable, dynamic, and inspiring programme.” CEO participant.

“The Fresh Air Leadership company has been a trusted and respected partner of Scale up Scotland for many years. They bring a great wealth of cross-functional expertise utilising the outdoors as a canvas for experiential learning, reflection and commitment to action. The work we do with Dave and his team has proven to be a fundamental component of our programme, allowing founders to build trust, psychological safety and rapport all of which underpin the peer to peer learning they benefit from. It is always a great pleasure to work with Fresh Air Leadership company. Their values, customer focus, attention to detail and the meticulous planning they put into the events they run for us is evident from the feedback we receive from our programme participants; many of whom say it was a pivotal moment in their personal leadership journey.” Ken Whipp: Scale up Scotland Programmes Director at The Hunter Foundation.