The vantage points of mountains are comparable to those along our leadership journeys. Here in Georgia, we are experiencing the transition from winter to spring. That transition signifies warmer weather and the ability to get outdoors more often
I tend to be a creature of habit. The same person, Katianne White, has cut my hair for around fourteen years. I prefer to schedule my haircuts early on Saturday mornings. Floyd’s Barber Shop is conveniently located between my home in Acworth and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. When the weather and my schedule cooperate, I like to head over for a hike after my haircut.
Kennesaw Mountain is a nearly 3,000 acre national park. It was home to one of the most significant battles of the Atlanta Campaign during the civil war. The climb to the top is a little over seven hundred feet in elevation change. Not huge when it comes to mountains, but still offers an awesome opportunity for reflection on the hike.
As I hike, I’ll thumb in some notes in Evernote. In this week’s post, I wanted to share seven of those reflections on the vantage points of mountains.
Whenever you stand at the foot of a mountain, it can be intimidating. At the base, getting to the top can seem insurmountable. Whether it is concern about being out of shape or just simply not in the mood to participate in a physical activity, it is easy to just stop and stare. You can get Stuck.
The monumental tasks that face us as leaders can have the same impact. The daily grind can keep our feet planted right where they are with zero forward momentum. As leaders, we have to just start walking. Move forward and put one foot in front of the other. No one ever climbed a mountain standing still at the bottom.
Pace of the Climb
Throughout the climb, pace is key. Too slow…it takes forever, and your desired conditioning is not attained. Too fast, you can exhaust yourself and not be able to finish the climb. Most of all, you miss the beauty of the hike.
As we climb in leadership, pace is key too. If you lack the hunger and take your sweet time, you may never develop the stamina necessary to get to the top. If your pace is too fast, you can burn out. You can miss the beauty of the journey too. A trail full of experiences conditioning you for the moment you reach the mountain top. Experiences necessary to a leader’s growth.
Can’t Climb Backwards
I have never seen someone climb a mountain backwards. I do not intend on trying to be the first either. As I climb, my eyes are always forward. I am focused on the next step. If I look back, I will stumble over whatever obstacle awaits me.
Our pasts can trip us up as well. It is easy to let the mistakes, failures, and the missed opportunities of our past weigh us down like a loaded backpack. Quality leadership is always forward facing. Facing forward tells our past it has no place in our future climb. We will never get up the mountain looking backwards.
Guarding the Top
At the top of the mountain there are cannons on display. When I see them, it makes me think about the need to guard the position. The need to stay on top at all costs. Not through defeating enemies or warding off attackers, but continuing to put ourselves in a position to stay on top.
How do we stay on top? Simple, we continue to grow. The easiest place to falter is at the summit, the perceived pinnacle of our careers. The greatest leaders who sit at the top, commit to evolving and adapting. They reinvent themselves by growing. Their positions on the mountain top are secure because they guard their position with growth.
When I reach the top of the mountain, there are a series of rocks. I like to have a seat there. I may jot some notes down, pray, catch my breath, or just take in the view. As you peer out over a mountain’s edge, you have a wide-ranging view. One thing within range are valleys. It is a natural feature in the landscape around mountains.
Valleys await us in our leadership journey. We see them in the distance, we watch others walk through them, but none of us are immune from them. There are only two types of people in this world, those who have walked through valleys and those who are about to.
Valleys are a necessary part of the path in our leadership growth. They teach us courage, perseverance, and resilience. We learn to deal with failure and misfortune. Most importantly, we are more grateful for the view from the top when we get there.
There are two ways back down Kennesaw Mountain. One is the road that smoothly winds around the edge of the mountain, the other is the trail you just hiked up. The trail that I take up the mountain is full of obstacles like rocks, steep terrain, and slick surfaces.
Descent option one in leadership is a faster, more abrupt decline. This path can be harsh. Mistakes can lead to stumbles, falls, and embarrassing moments. None of which we want to face as leaders. The person in the position of influence usually chooses this path. They are the leaders who failed to adapt and evolve, they chose not to grow.
When it comes time to start my leadership descent, I’ll take option two. This is the smooth, winding road, just like the one I take on Saturday mornings. The one that contours the edge of the mountain, full of beautiful vantage points. Views of the people and the world I hope to have bettered along the way.
Climb the Right One
I climb Kennesaw Mountain because it is challenging, but attainable. It is the mountain that fits my fitness levels and physical abilities. It is not unattainable. I would never climb Mount Everest. It is not within my skillset, and I am not properly prepared. I could literally die.
Sometimes leaders pick the wrong mountain. Maybe they like what is at the top or the accolades that come with it. The trail to the top of the right mountain is paved with passion. A passion that burns deep for the cause that you wish to serve. A cause that is greater than oneself. One that strives to leave the people and the places you encounter along the path better than where you found them.
I am truly grateful for the vantage points of mountains in my life. How grateful are you for yours? Conquering mountains are never easy. The most rugged ones generally provide the most rewarding views.
Leadership can be made complex. Like hiking the mountain, just start walking. Put one foot in front of the other. Remain forward facing throughout the journey. Stop along the way, catch your breath, and enjoy the experience as you climb to the pinnacle of your leadership journey.
Never forget the awesome responsibility we have as leaders to better others and the world we live in along the way. It will make the descent so much more rewarding.