The Carson Design team finished reading On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Mount Everest and Other Extreme Environments for our most recent business book club. On the Edge is an engaging leadership guide by Alison Levine, in which she proposes that the leadership principles she learned on her various personal expeditions — from the South Pole to Mount Everest — also apply to today’s business landscape.
As a team, we were surprised by the amount of takeaways from the stories of climbing Mt. Everest we were able to relate back to our work as designers. Here are a few of our key takeaways from our own Jen Scherr and Tabitha Vachon, and how they relate to leadership in the workplace:
1. Take a Step Back to Shift Your Perspective on Failure
“Sometimes you do have to go backward – away from your destination – in order to reach it.” (p. 31). There are moments in everyday life that require us to take a step back. We may think of these moments as failure, when in reality they could be the best thing to happen. With a shift in perspective, these moments can put us on a path we are meant to follow. Just because this may not follow your original path, it doesn’t mean it’s a failure.
2. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Regarding leadership, Levine states: “You’ll never improve your skills if you keep following your standard route. And getting out of your comfort zone is not enough; you must take it a step further and learn to be comfortable with discomfort.” (p. 209). Everyone can benefit from this point when it comes to trying new things and not settling. While it can feel comfortable not wanting to shake things up due to fear, that won’t necessarily help us become better managers, employees, friends, parents, partners, etc.
3. Everyone Holds a Leadership Position
From very early on in the book, Alison Levine made a very crucial point that everyone in an expedition (or business team) is technically in a leadership position. This is key when thinking about teams and especially in the workforce. Much of our society is taught that there are leaders on teams. The rest of the people just follow suit. Levine makes it clear that yes, leaders are very important but it is also everyone’s responsibility at some point to take charge and have a say in what a team will do, say, respond, act, etc.
4. Wellbeing and Selflessness are Crucial to Success
Levine states that, “A group is only a team when every member of the group cares as much about helping the other members as they care about helping themselves.” In today’s world, we are often taught to fend for ourselves when in reality, if you want to succeed, you also need to help the people around you. When making business decisions, it is important to not only listen to everyone’s opinions, but also look at each team member’s wellbeing.
5. Collaboration Over Competition
“If you try to win alone and you’re successful, you’re going to jump up to celebrate alone. No one will share the moment with you. If you win as a team, you’ll all jump up together.” We share the belief that everyone in an organization is responsible for moving forward the mission, and this is better done collaboratively. Success is much sweeter as a team, whether you’re summiting Mt. Everest or winning a new client, and we prefer to share in the hard work, failures, lessons learned and celebration.
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Have you read “On the Edge”? We’d love to hear your key takeaways in the comments below. Continue following along as we review our book club reads and discussions throughtout the year.