Mountaineering and business share many common aspects. Here Chris Maxwell demonstrates 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 Mt. Everest climbers to give motivational speeches to their employees, writes mountaineer and author Edwin Bernbaum. “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.”¹
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. My research shows that world-class mountain guides demonstrate six key leadership strengths that help their charges reach 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 guide.