Lessons From the Summit: the Next Pinnacle

Lessons From the Summit: the Next Pinnacle

As this message is landing in inboxes and on the web, I’m preparing to land in Las Vegas for The Pinnacle Experience. It’s an SMPS event designed for experienced leaders in marketing and business development—and I can’t wait!

In my last column, I shared some lessons from the trail—insights gained from hiking that apply to setting and achieving goals. It was fun to read replies from those who enjoyed the hiking metaphor and related thoughts. Today, as I gear up to make connections and take in great content at Pinnacle, my metaphor mind has been at work again. That’s only natural, since pinnacle can be used to describe either a mountaintop or the most successful point in someone’s career.

After reaching the pinnacle of a mountain hike—or reaching a certain leadership position—it can be tempting to linger at the top. But as leaders, we need to keep going. With that in mind, here are a few more lessons from the trail, or more specifically, the summit:

Build others up along the way.

If you hike up a busy mountain trail, chances are, you’ll hear some words of encouragement, like “You’re almost there!” or “Keep going—it’s worth it!” As leaders, it’s our responsibility to not only think about the future but about who will be leading after us. When you’re following your own path, consider how you encourage others in theirs. If you’re standing at the proverbial leadership summit, think about how you can make room for someone else. And recognize when it’s time to change positions so others can benefit from the experience.

Appreciate different vantage points.

In September, I hiked the challenging Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park. Considered one of the United States’ most dangerous hikes, it offers a summit with stunning views. While hobbling hiking back down to the trailhead, I kept stopping to take photos. The view from the top was inspiring, but so were the views 1,500 feet (460 meters) below it.

As we accumulate experience and reach new heights in our careers, we develop expertise that we can share with future generations of leaders. Yet it’s important to remember that we have a lot to learn from different generations and experience levels, too–and, often, the protégé is also the mentor.

The path to the peak isn’t a straight shot.

As an asthmatic hiker, I always get a bit frustrated when a mountain or summit trail starts to wind downhill before the peak. It feels like someone hit CTRL+Z, undoing the progress I just made. I then remind myself that the up-and-down is conditioning me for the future, and that I’m still moving forward.

When plotted out on an X and Y axis, personal and professional growth seldom look like a 45-degree angle. Most of the time, growth looks more like a mountain range with ups and downs. Some experiences will seem like setbacks, but they have lessons to teach, and we’re still making progress.

Look for the next peak.

After a challenging hike, it’s not long before I’m thinking about the next one, which is a good reminder to do the same in my professional life. I mentioned this in my last column: I’ll always be a work in progress. I believe most SMPSers feel this way, too, as people who engage with professional associations typically have a growth mindset and want to continually learn and improve. Every experience sets us up for the next challenge or opportunity.

Much like the trek up a tough trail, the leadership path is a humbling experience. In my mind, that’s an important part of being a leader who leads to serve versus serving to lead. What lessons have you learned along your leadership path? How can SMPS support you as you move forward? Drop me a line and let me know! And I’ll see you on the trail.


Article written by SMPS President Holly Bolton, FSMPS, CPSM, who is owner of 3chord Marketing. She can be reached at holly@3chord-marketing.com.


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