I learned a great deal about leadership when I led an expedition to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the world's tallest freestanding mountain. The team consisted of 28 people, including seven physically or mentally-handicapped climbers, none of whom had climbed a mountain before. When you are halfway up in the dark, clinging to rock, you need to be sure of the strength and quality of your team and of your own physical and mental abilities.
The thing that I realized on the way to the summit and on the climb down was that we tend to focus on the external challenges, but the reality is that we all have a mountain within us to climb and to conquer. It may be something in our career, like being a perfectionist or speaking in public. It may be fear of failure or of making decisions when those decisions affect the lives of other people.
From the climb and my own experiences in business I have written a book called "The Mountain Within -- Leadership Lessons and Inspirations for Your Climb to the Top." I decided to write this book because I firmly believe that most of the global problems we face are not just of a financial nature, but are actually caused by a crisis in leadership. We see it in our political system here and abroad, and in the continuing ailments of the global economy.
The lessons in the book are a blueprint for living a life of significance and for leading your team to peak performance. One of these lessons is to follow your calling rather than just choose a career. It will help you to keep your setbacks in perspective and make whatever mountains you have to climb easier and a lot more rewarding.
Another lesson that has engendered a great deal of comment is "don't stay at the top too long." Thank goodness for term limits for politicians! I'm not advocating similar limits for CEOs, but I can speak from my experience in business and in reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro: People can act very funny in the rarified air at the top. We therefore need people around us who have the courage to hold us accountable.
With the constant changes that we are going through from demographics to the emergence of a stronger China and India, from major energy security issues to alleviation of poverty, it must follow that new thinking, new approaches and new vision will be necessary during the next decades as we go through a period of major discontinuity.
We need a new brand of business and political leaders who know who they are. We need leaders who can relate humanely to their fellow human beings, who can overcome challenges and provide innovation, creativity and courage. Let us display courage and do our part to bring about positive change as we conquer our mountains within and without.
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