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Elevate Your Leadership: 8 Essential Leadership Insights from Mountaineering

When my old friend and former colleague Tim Searle TEP, a seasoned tax professional from Dubai, posted about our recent Norwegian mountaineering adventures on LinkedIn, he humorously admitted struggling to link glaciers and tax.

His attempt to blend Variable Universal Life, tax, and hiking using AI resulted in what he called an ‘epic fail’. Tim’s post reminded me that many overlook the valuable connections between mountaineering and business leadership.

There are many parallels between scaling peaks and navigating the corporate world. Our five-day adventure through Norway’s glaciers and mountains cemented this belief. The challenging mountain environment offers a unique view of business principles.

The author and Tim Searle enjoying a moment at the foot of Nigardsbreen, Jostedal Glacier, NorwayPhoto: © 2024 Gunnar Florus

The author and Tim Searle enjoying a moment at the foot of Nigardsbreen, Jostedal Glacier, Norway.
Photo: © 2024 Gunnar Florus.

Tim’s journey was particularly telling. An avid hiker used to the desert mountains of the UAE, he transitioned effortlessly to Norway’s snow-covered glaciers and peaks. Our shared triumphs and challenges on the icy terrain offered various business lessons. Tim’s ability to adapt his skills to this different environment showed the flexibility needed in business leadership.

Drawing from this experience, I’ve identified eight key insights from our mountaineering adventures that I believe every business leader can benefit from:

1. Resilience and Adaptability

Mountains, like markets, are unpredictable. A sudden change in weather can derail the best-laid plans, just as an unexpected market shift can upend a carefully crafted strategy. Climbers must face harsh conditions and unpredictable obstacles. This fosters resilience and adaptability.

At Myrhyrna / Myrhønna 1485m in Jostedal. Photo: © 2024 Gunnar Florus.

At Myrhyrna / Myrhønna 1485m in Jostedal. Photo: © 2024 Gunnar Florus.

In business, these qualities are invaluable. The ever-changing landscape of economic fluctuations, market demands, and emerging technologies requires professionals to adapt quickly and effectively. The mental toughness developed on the mountain enables leaders to persevere through challenges, pivot when necessary, and seize opportunities that others might shy away from.

2. Decision-Making Under Pressure

Quick decisions can have big impacts on a tricky mountain slope or high-stakes business situations. Choosing the wrong route or misjudging the weather can spell disaster for climbers. Similarly, a hastily made decision in business can impact an entire organisation. Both environments demand clear thinking and decisive action, often with incomplete information.

3. Goal-Setting and Strategic Planning

To conquer a mountain, climbers need a clear plan detailing the route, equipment, and timeline. It requires thorough research, meticulous preparation, and strategic thinking. An experienced mountaineer would only attempt a challenging climb after careful risk assessment.

This approach translates well to business strategy. Setting well-defined, measurable, and achievable goals provides a roadmap that guides decision-making and helps evaluate progress. Breaking down significant objectives into smaller, manageable tasks—a skill honed in mountaineering—proves invaluable when tackling complex business projects.

4. Trust and Interdependence

On a rope team, your life is literally in your partner’s hands. This fosters a level of trust and interdependence that’s rare in everyday life. In business, cultivating this degree of confidence within teams can lead to extraordinary results. When colleagues know they can rely on each other implicitly, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.

View from Nigardsbreen, Jostedal Glacier. Photo: © 2024 Gunnar Florus

View from Nigardsbreen, Jostedal Glacier. Photo: © 2024 Gunnar Florus.

5. Unwavering Commitment

Turning back halfway up a mountain face is often not possible. This reality instils a powerful sense of commitment and resourcefulness. Adopting this ‘failure is not an option’ mindset in business can drive teams to find innovative solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges.

6. Gaining Perspective

Standing on a summit, with the world at your feet, brings an unparalleled clarity of perspective. This clarity can be transformative in business, helping leaders to see beyond day-to-day firefighting and focus on long-term vision and goals.

7. Continuous Learning and Improvement

Every mountain is different, and even familiar routes change with the seasons. The constant variability of mountainous terrain necessitates a mindset of continuous learning and improvement. This same perspective is equally valuable in the ever-evolving business landscape, where markets, technologies, and consumer preferences constantly shift.

8. Embracing Discomfort for Growth

Watching my friend adapt to the mountain’s challenges was remarkably instructive. From the sweltering 40-degree humidity of Dubai to the snow and ice of Norway, Tim embraced every aspect of the expedition. He swapped his smart attire for practical mountain gear. He washed in icy streams, gave up proper bathrooms and hotel comforts, and prepared his own meals and bedding. This notable shift from his usual environment reminded me how crucial stepping out of our comfort zones is. In these moments of challenge and unfamiliarity, we often find our most significant opportunities for growth and insights.

Basic accommodation at Ekrehytta. Photo: © 2024 Gunnar Florus

Basic accommodation at Ekrehytta. Photo: ©2024 Gunnar Florus.


Whether you’re scaling a Norwegian glacier or steering a multinational corporation, the fundamental principles of leadership remain the same: clear communication, trust in your team, adaptability, and unwavering commitment to your goal. Mountaineering offers more than just an adrenaline rush and an opportunity to connect with nature. The skills and experiences gained from tackling challenging peaks—such as adaptability, strategic planning, and resilience—translate directly into valuable assets in the business world.

It may be time to consider taking your next strategy meeting to the mountainside. The change in perspective might be the catalyst for your next big breakthrough.

What unexpected experiences have shaped your leadership style? Have you found business insights in adventurous settings? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments on Facebook—I’d be fascinated to hear your stories.


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Gunnar Florus Mountaineer