Wisdom From The Mountain

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Over the centuries, mountains have been common inspiration for parables. Soothsayers and gurus have sought solitude atop mountain peaks and their disciples have suffered hardships in order to benefit from their wisdom.

I myself just returned from a trip up a mountain. I hiked up and slept in a cabin with 80 other hikers – masqueraded as a bachelorette party! Ten women, ranging from 13-69 years of age made the trek within our party.

Our group included three teenagers, a journalist (the bride to be), a pilot, a sommelier, a former international development officer, and a management consultant (that’s me). Four of this group had completed triathlons and Ironman competitions (that’s not me) and one is a seasoned extreme outdoor adventurer (again, not me). I figured with this combined experience and skill I would just follow along, relying on someone more qualified to keep us all safe and organized.

Critical to the success of our adventure were the organizational skills of the journalist, my constant juggling of strategy in the face of changing weather forecasts, plus the sommelier’s determination to maximize our wine carrying capacity.

Most interesting however was the unbridled leadership demonstrated by the three teenage girls. They set a brisk pace, leading us safely to our cabin and back through some incredibly challenging terrain and weather.

On the long trek back down from the cabin, I realized that what happened to us on that mountain is relevant to any organization:

  • No matter how well you plan, you must be flexible and adjust as new information about opportunities and risk are presented – ignore them at your peril!
  • Diverse experiences, talents, skills and interests can create a team capable of incredible things – we overcame our individual fears and never did anyone ever consider quitting.
  • In the face of such talent, many of us had to overcome feelings of inferiority – but the humility and encouragement of the super athletes among us bolstered our confidence.
  • We benefited from amazing (and unexpected) leadership potential that could have easily gone unnoticed had the “natural” leaders taken over.
  • Celebrating together makes accomplishments that much sweeter.

These were just some of the important lessons I was reminded of during my expedition.  After all, what’s the point of climbing a mountain if you don’t come back with a few pearls of wisdom, along with your stories and blisters?

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