As I reflected on my climbing experiences, I realized the parallels between my climbing hobby and my sesquidecade-long career as a entrepreneur. To my surprise, I’ve been refining my expertise in the mountains all along. Both require goals, diligence, planning, calculations, and teamwork.
High-altitude climbing requires a goal—realistic enough to achieve, but lofty enough to motivate.
Mountaineering and business share many common aspects. More specifically how business leaders who lead like mountain guides provide the kind of leadership that supports the vision of their organisation and uplifts the people who work to make that vision a reality.
Business leaders often call on metaphors from mountaineering to inspire employees and boost organisational performance. Visualising the summit, with its promise of uncharted horizons beyond, stirs the heart of the entrepreneur and manager alike. Setting a common goal, building effective teams, determining a route, overcoming adversity – all are essential components of both mountaineering and business. It’s no wonder that firms often hire Everest summiteers to give motivational speeches to their employees. Just as Everest stretches people to do more than they thought they could, so companies want to stretch their employees to help the organisation reach the loftiest goals, to be number one in the field, to provide the best product or service in the industry group.
Inspirational images like Mt. Everest signify to all employees the importance of the organisation’s top-level goals. Just as for mountaineers, an organisation’s vision must be linked with a clear route to the summit. With the vision and route established, what happens next is largely dependent on complementary leadership action. From my personal experience climbing with world-class mountain guides I’ve experienced they demonstrate six key leadership strengths that help their summit push for the highest peaks in challenging conditions, and that these same strengths have a significant impact when applied within organisations. My advice: To be a better leader, lead like a Mountain guide.
Mountain guides employ six key leadership strengths:
• Socially intelligent, quickly establishing positive interactions with clients.
• Adaptable, matching their leadership style to rapidly changing conditions
• Empowering, providing clients a supportive space for growth and development
• Trust-builders, helping clients learn to trust themselves and their teams
• Risk-aware, operating with skill and safety in uncertain conditions
• Big-picture thinkers, taking a holistic view of the endeavour
With these strengths as a complement to technical ability, a mountain guide actively models leadership in a manner that inspires and motivates a team to work well with others, adapt to change, focus on strengths, develop trusting relationships, build comfort with uncertainty, and take a broad view. If your goal is your foundation, then think of how these six key leadership strengths can help you reach your next career summit together with your team.
Now, who wants to go climb and strategize with me?