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POPin Blog

Climbing the Mountain of Leadership

Leadership is a lot like climbing a mountain. The ascent can be grueling and the path is uncertain, but the reward comes from successfully navigating every challenge and reaching the metaphorical peak. Applying this analogy, it’s worth considering your motivation for making the climb in the first place. Also, where are you climbing to, and where are you on the mountain right now? Who is your executive coach/mentor who will serve as your mountain guide/Sherpa? And who has joined the climbing team that will help you reach the top? These are all relevant questions for any leader, according to an article in Business Insider by Jenna Goudreau, who describes the exploits of Alison Levine, a mountaineer and author of “On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership.” Levine is an MBA and former Goldman Sachs associate who has scaled the highest peak on every continent, including Mount Everest. Setting Up Your Base Camp In business as in mountain climbing, advance preparation is critical. Being prepared means having a detailed plan, adequate supplies, and the proper physical and mental training to overcome any potential adversities. Consider the start of a new leadership role as your chance to set up your base camp, according to a blog post by Sam Palazzolo, Managing Director of Tip of the Spear Ventures, a venture capital and private equity business advisory services firm. Be sure to articulate a clear agenda for what you expect to accomplish in the first 100 days of your management tenure. Assemble your inner circle of advisors, and build momentum for the big climb ahead. Remember, that initial period will set the tone for your entire ascent up the Mountain of Leadership, so stay positive. Going Backwards to Move Ahead Sometimes, the smartest route isn’t a straight path forward. When a sudden storm overtakes the mountainside, survival may depend on a climber’s ability to beat a fast retreat back to Base Camp. Business leaders should have similar agility and a willingness to make tough decisions on the go. In addition to adverse weather conditions, mountaineers face a lethal threat from the lack of oxygen at extreme heights. For this reason, they often make their ascents in staggered stages. For instance, they will climb from Base Camp to Camp 1 first. Then they will go back down to Base Camp, before ascending to Camp 2, etc. In this way, their lungs and blood become acclimatized over time in order to reach the peak. Recognize Your Weaknesses and Compensate for Them Mountain climbing teams need to maximize every person’s skills and fill in the gaps for any shortcomings. Leaders are responsible for pulling the whole group together. Some climbers may have exceptional strength to carry heavy loads, while others have strong endurance to drive trails over deep snowdrifts and steep cliffs. Some may have upbeat personalities that lift up team morale when things go badly, while still others are accomplished cooks who can even make stale rations taste delicious for the climbing team. Actually, Failure is an Option Experienced mountain climbers are cautious to never make a trek alone, because teamwork is essential from a safety standpoint. In case of injuries or mishaps, other members of the team can assist by mending a wound, carrying an extra load, or sharing their provisions. Also, in the case of sudden storms or blizzards, teammates are there to support each other and quickly shelter in place. What’s that old adage? If you don’t succeed at first, try, try again. That saying applies equally well to business leadership and mountain climbing. After all, when someone asked British mountaineer George Leigh Mallory why he wanted to scale Mount Everest in the 1920s, he is said to have replied, “Because it’s there.”