Climbing Mountains is Never Easy and Neither is Leadership
There are 54 mountains in Colorado that measure over 14,000 feet in height. I recently climbed my sixteenth 14er, and it was the eighth one I have done by myself. I had seven solitary hours to contemplate the oft-cited metaphor of mountain climbing and leadership.
The first thing I thought about while stressing and straining over the trail was, “Why am I doing this? What motivates me to push myself in sometimes tough conditions?"
I wasn’t able to answer that question for myself until I reach the summit. I wondered if the altitude had something to do with it, but the higher I climbed, the more daily distractions faded away and I was able to focus and think. At the summit, I realized my little epiphany of why I climb is rather cliché: It made me feel alive and purposeful.
I found the purposeful part odd, as solo climbing is a rather selfish pursuit, but climbing is to my very being what reading is to my mind, and exercise is to my body. I need to climb to be a (whole) better person.
Like every leadership assignment I have ever had, none of the mountains I have climbed were easy. Like the teams I’ve led, each mountain has its own personality. The way the weather wraps around the mountain, the way routes seem to disappear in front of you. Just like leadership, where teams react positively or negatively to challenges, is not always predictable.
Some of the mountains I have climbed were more challenging than others, but none were without their moments where I had to dig a little deeper than I thought I would - or could. Like life and leadership, there are plenty of external uncontrollables.
The weather determines the temperature, which determines the layers of clothing. The wind can make a tricky ridge even more difficult. Rain can make a trail a muddy and a slippery mess, and snow can make a route hard to find. Just like leadership, the route requires adaptability and the self-reliance to persevere despite hardship.
Unlike leadership, climbing a mountain is temporary. Dedicating the better part of a day to a physical activity is easier than the stamina required to put forth your best efforts day after day in the pursuit of an organization’s vision.Continued on the next page