Five Leadership Lessons From Summiting Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

When considering leadership lessons, we usually think of the context of work.  As I was slowly hiking my way up to the summit of Mt St. Helens yesterday, I had plenty of time to think about leadership.  What lessons could I take away?   Here are five that came to mind:

It takes hard work.

We can envision the brightest future but without action it is worthless.  The thought of summiting Mt St. Helens was very appealing.  I hadn’t reached the summit of a major mountain before and this one was special.  It was a hard slog.  Over 4,000 feet of climbing and the view from the top made every step worth it.  Persistence was critical, one step after the other, however far the summit seemed.  At the start of a project, the finish can seem a long way off.  The journey starts with a step.

Be prepared.

You need to be fit to hike a mountain and that takes preparation.  For me this included some hikes with similar elevation gain and long practice walks.  When you set out a challenging goal, how much time do you spend preparing?  Or do you jump straight in to take action?

Get a guide.

When the territory is unfamiliar a guide is a tremendous help.  On the way up the mountain we had to navigate some tricky boulder fields.  Following the easiest path made the journey much easier.  How often do you ask for help when you are working in unfamiliar territory?

Conserve energy.

From my experience, most projects start out at full speed.  We need to take action and move quickly.  We fear falling behind.  But at least if we are working hard we can’t be criticized.  Our guide had a different idea.  His goal was to be lazy and make the ascent as easy as possible.  The descent required the energy I had saved.  My usual project approach is start fast, but sometimes slow and steady wins the race.

Keep your balance.

When climbing over large boulders, this seems obvious.  In our work, the same principle applies.  When faced with big challenges or setbacks we need to keep our emotional balance.  It is easy to blame others or get frustrated with progress.  Setbacks are inevitable.  The key is how you respond to them.

No doubt there are many more examples from yesterday’s trip, I hope these resonate with you.  They are certainly helping me reflect on how I work going forward.

If you get a chance to hike to the summit of Mt St. Helens, do it!  The view from the top is incredible.