Finishing Well

Leading Blog

Sportswoman, polar explorer, and author of On the Edge, Alison Levine, recently told Forbes about finishing well:

“Most of the deaths on Everest occur on the descent—after a climber reaches the top. The reason so many accidents happen on the descent is because people use everything they have—all of their energy reserves—to get to the top, and then they have nothing left in them to get themselves back down the mountain. Every year there are mountaineers who collapse just below the summit; many of them die there. Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. You have to know yourself well enough to judge when it is time to turn around and head back down. And you need to make that call when you still have enough energy left to descend. The hard part is that quite often that turn around point is before you reach the summit. The number one goal of any expedition: come back alive. Number two is come back with all of your fingers and toes. Tagging the top of a mountain should never be the goal.”

The goal isn’t getting to the top. The goal is getting back down—finishing well. Many leaders struggle with finishing well.

Ironically, success plants the seeds for derailment. Success encourages complacency and arrogance, both of which erode character and obstruct growth. Finishing well requires a life-long commitment to self-awareness and growth. And that means feedback. Any leader that struggles with openness to feedback is flirting with disaster.

Finishing well is not an event. It is a process. It doesn’t just happen. It is a discipline—a road that the self-aware leader embarks on. Leaders who finish well develop these characteristics as part of their leadership style:

  • They have a purpose beyond their own self-interests.
  • They are accountable to people who will tell them what they don’t want to hear.
  • They maintain the intellectual, emotional and spiritual reserves necessary to get them to the finish line.
  • They know the goal is getting to the finish line with their character intact.
  • They know they must rely on others and are willing to listen and learn.

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