Leadership in the Face of Challenges – 17 Lessons from the book; On The Edge

Title: On The Edge – The Art of High Impact Leadership
Author: Alison Levine
©2014 Hachette Book Group Inc

Written by Alison Levine, every page of the book On The Edge – The Art of High Impact Leadership is full of useful insights and lessons that will resonate with all those who are in leadership or aspire to leadership positions.

“Alison Levine is an American mountain climber, sportswoman, explorer and leadership consultant. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller On the Edge and the executive producer of the Glass Ceiling documentary. She has ascended the highest peaks on every continent and also skied to both the North and South Poles. In 2010 at age 44, she completed the Adventure Grand Slam by reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, having fallen only 200 feet short in her previous attempt in 2002 as part of the 1st American Women’s Everest Expedition. She is one of few people in the world to have completed the Grand Slam. She currently serves as an adjunct instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from University of Arizona and an MBA from Duke University.”
(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_Levine)

The following is a brief review of the book that I wish to share with you.

      1. These are challenging times governmentally, socially, environmentally, financially and especially in the business world. According to the author, “” As is common in extreme adventure sports, leadership requires the vital ability to make decisions on the spot under imperfect and always changing conditions.

      2. Engage mentors who are more skillful than you are.  Alison Levine explained that “in extreme situations no one goes it alone. We are all responsible for one another. In extreme environments, each of us must feel responsible for those around us and we should constantly consider how our actions — or inaction — affect others.”
      3. Continuously develop your skills and the skills of your team members. Groom, train and empower your team member so that they can make progress with the mission even when you are no longer there. Who we are as a team trumps any of us as individuals.
      4. The mental trick is to understand that going down does not mean you’re losing ground, but rather strengthening the foundation of your effort.” Anything that makes it more likely for you to reach your goals is equivalent to progress even if it means you’re taking a retreat.

      5. Timing, proximity and a common goal are insufficient to form a cohesive team.
      6. Relationship & Networking: Past performance is not a guarantee for future performance even though that is the way we naturally want to bet. You need to be proactive about building strong strategic relationships. People are more willing and more likely to help those they are in relationships with.
      7. Complacency will kill you: Even when everything seems to be relatively safe and easy, the scenario can change without warning and danger may be lurking nearby. People who engage in continuously risky behavior just because they got away with it the first time are endangering their lives, setting bad examples and endangering the lives of others. Stay engaged and be attentive to your team mates.
      8. It’s OK to feel scared and fearful in challenging and intimidating environments. But, don’t let fear keep you from taking on a challenge, Danger often comes when we fail to respond to changes in the world around us. Be agile and don’t fall prey to following the status quo. No two situations are the same, each one therefore call for different response.
      9. Make the most of your weaknesses. Even though our abilities often improve with practice, discipline and dedication, there are still many skills where we don’t just cut it.  Instead of always trying to overcome your weaknesses, make the most out of (and in spite) of them. Even though it is not always easy to overcome your weaknesses, you can always compensate for them. How? By leveraging your other hidden skills, talents and attributes in innovative ways that help the team to reach the stated goals.
      10. As a leader, it is your duty to help your people be the greatest they can be. Find a way to bring out the best in others in spite of their weaknesses. Muhammad Ali, who struggled in school because he was learning disabled, was quoted as follows: “I never said I was the smartest, I said I was the greatest.”
      11. As a leader you must always strive to and ensure that you know what you need to know.  Inexperienced people may get away with some errors but, excuses don’t work for a leader. Be prepared and come ready to take on the challenges.
      12. Even when faced with tough times and challenges, remember that courtesy and compassion are vital to achieving goals.  Treat others with respect and kindness because in extreme environments, Bad attitudes dampen morale and can endanger your life and that of others when you are faced with risky situations. Knowing your team as individuals will prevent you from judging and drawing false conclusions and expectations about them in terms of what they can or cannot do.
      13. Don’t just always follow the rules.  The key to surviving storms is the ability to take action based on the prevailing situations irrespective of the initial plan. In other words, always use your judgement.
      14. Have guiding principles and always demonstrate and abide by them. Honor the trust placed on you by always coming through on the commitments you made. That’s the way to earn the trust and loyalty of those you are leading. The opportunity you have now may be the only one you have for demonstrating to people who you are. Don’t blow it.
      15. . You will never improve your skills if you keep following the standard route of the well-beaten path. Embrace failure: Own it and Come back with a vengeance. Failure in and of itself is not a bad thing. However failing to learn from past failure(s) is uncalled-for.
      16. In situations where lives are on the line, make sure you always err on the side of safety. And when you are a leader you have to think about how your every move will affect not just you, but also the people around you.
      17. You might have blazed the trail to the peak in your chosen path now (or so it seems). But, “Always remember: nobody gets to the top of Mount Everest by themselves. Nobody.”

 Your performance on the mountain you climbed last week or last month or last year doesn’t matter.  What matters most is what you’re doing right now.

All excepts and brief quotations are from the book:
On The Edge
©Alison Levine, 2014