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17 Leadership Lessons from Allison Levine’s, On The Edge
Because what matters most is what you’re doing right now
As the captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition Team, Alison Levine is the author of a New York Times best-selling book, “On the Edge: The Art of High Impact Leadership
I was a participant in one of her oline seminars. Ever since, I’ve read and reread On The Edge — Leadership in the Face of Challenges. One vital leadership skill is the ability to make decisions on the spot under imperfect and always changing conditions. Here are some of the lessons I took home.
These are challenging times for all of us, but, “even though you cannot control your environment, you can always control your reaction to it.”
Engage mentors who are more skillful than you are. “ln extreme situations no one goes it alone. We are all responsible for one another. Each of us must feel responsible for those around us and we should constantly consider how our actions or inactions affect others.”
Continuously develop your skills and the skills of your team members. That way, the team can still make progress with the mission even when you are no longer there. Who we are as a team trumps any of us as individuals.
Progress is not always defined by constant forward motion. “Sometimes you will have to go backward — away from your destination — in order to reach it. 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.”
Timing, proximity and a common goal are insufficient to form a cohesive team. A group only becomes a team when every member cares about helping others as much as they care about helping themselves.
Even though that is the way we naturally want to bet, past performance is not a guarantee for future success. You must be proactive about building strong strategic relationships. People are more willing and more likely to help those they are in relationships with.
Complacency will kill you: You may be on the right and everything may seem to be relatively safe and easy now, but the scenario can change without warning and danger may be lurking nearby. People who engage in continuously risky behaviors just because they got away with it the first time are endangering their lives, setting bad examples and gambling with others’ lives.
To feel scared and fearful is OK at times. You must not be scared from moving forward. 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.
Make the most of your weaknesses. Even though our abilities often improve with practice, discipline and dedication, there are still many skills where you don’t just cut it. Instead of always trying to overcome your weaknesses, make the most out of (and in spite of) them. Athough 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.
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 despite their weaknesses. “I never said I was the smartest, I said I was the greatest.” ~ Muhammad Ali
Aways strive to know what you need to know. That’s why you’re the leader. 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.
Even when faced with daunting 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.
Don’t just always blindly follow the rules. At times, great things can and do happen when you break the rules. Similarly, great damage can result from mindlessly following 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.
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.
Give yourself the permission to fail. How? By not being afraid of failure. Live outside your comfort zone. 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.
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.
You might have blazed the trail to the peak all alone (or so it seems). But, “Always remember: nobody gets to the top of Mount Everest by themselves. Nobody.”
Here are the key takeaways
Your performance on the mountain you climbed last week or last month or last year doesn’t matter.
When you abdicate the development and use of your leadership potential and abilities, you surcharge yourself and underserve the world around you.
When you develop your leadership potentials and use same when duty calls, you are helping to make our world a better place for all of us.
You suffer, your loved ones suffer and the entire world lost out when you fail to rise up and be the leader you are supposed to be.
What matters most is what you’re doing now.
Now, go ahead and, just do it.
Copyright © 2014 by Alison Levine, On The Edge: The Art of High Impact Leadership, Hachette Book Group Inc
Another version of this review was published on Medium
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