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Leadership lessons from a mountain

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit Denali National Park in Alaska and get up-close-and-personal with Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America.  Now, spectacular mountains are nothing new to me; after all I make my home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada which is nestled in the foot of the Canadian Rockies.  But Mt. McKinley was unique not only in its height, but also because of the way it stands out amongst the other topography around it.  And given that Mt. McKinley’s peak is shrouded in cloud at least two-thirds of the time, we were especially fortunate to visit on a day when the skies were clear and the view fantastic.

All of which contributed to our excitement, and caused me to get into a whimsical discussion with our local guide about what advice a mountain might give us if it could speak.  Here is our list:

  • Reach for the sky and attain new heights.
  • Enjoy the view while you climb to the top; there is beauty as far as the eye can see.
  • Have a point.  Get to the point.
  • Be patient in your journey; majestic mountains were not created overnight.
  • Be uplifting; help others scale the summit alongside you.

I found this list in a file folder on my desk just a few days ago.  As I smiled my way down the list and recalled happy vacation memories, it occurred to me that these lessons from our mountain are also sage advice for leaders.

So what would you add to my “leadership lessons from a mountain” list? Please comment below.


  • Like any worthwhile venture, reaching the peak is still a journey of one step at a time.

  • I think what prevents me from climbing the mountain is fear of the unkown at the top, and fear of making the journey. I think being brave and positive are important characteristics.

  • Great perspective Valerie, I didn’t think about what would stop you from following the advice given by a mountain. By extension then, these are also the things that would get in the way of being a good leader. And courage and positivity are definitely needed!

  • Although Mr/Mrs Mt.McKinley is more majestic and rises above the rest he/she is still part of the whole experience. As part of the bigger picture he contributes no more or less to those he/she comes into contact with.

  • Climb the mountain even if others don’t think it’s worth the effort. They can’t understand your rationale for the climb if they’ve never seen the view from the peak.

  • Hmm, I can’t help but think it’s not all about the up-hill journey, sometimes the greatest ride is on the way down! And then going back up to do it all over again.

  • This is a great theme to think about – for my two cents:

    – stop at the peak, and take time to look around, savour the experience and your accomplishment before you start back down.

    – realize that it isn’t a straight up journey. Sometimes you go sideways and sometimes you go back down temporarily to get back on track to continue going up.

  • Sam, you’re so right. Leadership cannot exist in isolation. Your success in leadership comes from your impact and effect on the people around you.

  • Nora, I’m loving these. So leadership is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing journey to be savoured and enjoyed … I get it!

  • Rell, as usual, you have some good ones. I particularly like your second one … it’s okay to stop and re-evaluate as long as you’re still keeping your eye on the goal. Very true!

  • Others have said similar things, but mine is: in your haste to reach your goal don’t forget there are many beautiful and rewarding things to enjoy along the way

  • Climb beyond your limitations
    Leave no stone unturned
    Never take life for granite
    Life has its ups & downs
    To summit it all up – it’s the journey step by step – Rock on!
    Ilan Shamir – “Advice from a Mountain” selected passages to enjoy

  • Deb, who knew that there would already be a poem about this. Thanks for the additions. I particularly enjoyed the play on words — granite, summit, rock on, LOL.

  • Robert, great to see that you revived this old post. I am still amazed at how many lessons a mountain can teach us!


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