Mount Rinjani is the second highest active volcano in Lombok island, Indonesia. A notoriously challenging climb, definitely not for the faint of heart and where a considerable level of physical fitness is needed to complete the hike successfully.
In the name of challenging myself without much thought or research put in prior, I signed myself up for an expedition to scale it.
Pushing my body to its limits and learning how to overcome the challenges on the mountain taught me some leadership lessons on how to survive even the most challenging of environments in life and at the workplace.
Here are seven leadership lessons I learnt from climbing Mount Rinjani that can be applied to this fast-paced, dynamic, VUCA corporate world that we live in today:
1) Preparation is key to success
This feat would not be possible without months of meticulous planning and rigorous preparation – physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.
We undertook extensive research to ensure we had the necessary equipment with the help of a comprehensive packing list and tips from friends and kind strangers who went before us.
We prepared ourselves physically though gruelling hours of training, hiking through the hill trails around the Klang Valley in the few months leading up to the big climb.
The regular training we did together week-in and week-out does not only prepare oneself physically but ensures one is mentally and emotionally capacity to meet the physical demands required to endure long hours of the hike.
Training together as a team is equally important in the preparation process. The camaraderie and bond built through the time spent together leading up to the big hike was necessary to foster a strong team spirit and unity.
As the saying goes:
You fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Nothing comes easy and we can’t achieve success without the preparation and hard work that comes with its share of blood, sweat and tears put in.
Yes, there will be circumstances in life where, no matter how much you prepare, the unexpected is inevitable.
Exercising self-leadership by being organised, motivated, and taking care of yourself is encouraged so that you can also effectively care for others. Don’t do your planning and preparation alone.
As a leader, ensuring you are ready and fit to take the challenge is only half the battle won, it is also about the people taking on this journey with you.
2) Teamwork makes the dream work
We all started off as strangers brought together by the common aspiration to conquer Mount Rinjani. We ultimately accomplished it because of how we worked together as a team.
From exchanging tips and discussing necessary preparations to getting to know each other’s personalities and individual strengths, strong teamwork and chemistry was needed to make the mission possible.
The frequent interaction enabled us to gauge where each other’s fitness levels, strengths and weaknesses lay in order to support each other as needed.
What kept us going while overcoming the external forces of the harsh dusty conditions, challenging terrain, bitterly cold weather and our own physical limitations was how we look out for one another.
Our motto was:
No one gets left behind
The constant encouragement, lifting each other’s spirits and motivating one another as we stuck close together, the genuine care for one another with the simple gesture of asking a quick “Are you okay?” from time to time made all the difference.
Ultimately, what made this experience enjoyable was everyone was in good spirits to chip in to help and do their part in making this trip a memorable one.
In order for any team to succeed, “cooperation, teamwork, effective conflict resolution, keeping yourself and others motivated, and getting along in a diverse group is crucial”. This is known as Expedition Behavior (EB) which is very easily translated into the workplace.
Together, we were able to achieve far greater things than we could have if we were all working alone. The daunting task of scaling Mount Rinjani would have never happened if not for teamwork.
Sometimes that means putting other people ahead of you and their needs first. This exemplifies servant leadership which is the key to building effective teams in organisations.
The challenging final push braving the rocky terrain
3) Expect the unexpected
As much as we tried readying ourselves as best as we could, nothing could prepare us for the arduous climb itself.
It was physically demanding, mentally challenging and emotionally exhausting.
We were faced with multiple unexpected challenges – one of us fell sick experiencing altitude sickness; one of us had a hiking shoe break halfway through the hike; injuries and blisters; and a bushfire which changed our hiking route and overall plans.
We were forced to be flexible and adaptable, to find solutions and different ways to work around those challenges in the many unforeseeable circumstances that were posed to us.
Although we were primed by previous hikers for how hard it was, when it came to the actual climb itself, it was a different ballgame altogether where one’s endurance, grit and mental strength were put to the test all at once.
But what helped was that we were mentally prepared for the different scenarios and possibilities that might happen and were willing to brave those challenges head on.
You can plan for every foreseeable contingency but sometimes even Plans A, B and C fall through and any number of unforeseeable conditions can thwart you. Build your ability to be flexible, adaptable, agile and nimble.
It is like a muscle that gets stronger over time; a useful skill in times when faced with crisis or challenges.
You will be an asset to your team and company when you are able to troubleshoot and resolve issues during the unlikely event of emergencies or unfortunate circumstances.
Let go of things you can’t control, plan for things you can. Expect the unexpected, and when the unexpected arrives, do not panic but instead, flex your agility muscles and adapt.
4) Determination and Will
Many advised that it is “all in the mind” and that we just have to push ourselves through it but, when faced with chilly winds, the cold thin air, combined with lack of sleep and physical exhaustion, the thought of giving up persists in your mind.
The worst was during the challenging final leg at the ascend up to the summit, every one step forward you take, you slide two steps back due to the steep, rocky, uneven gravel terrain.
Nonetheless, we were resolute in our minds that we did not come that far to give up. We simply had to complete the course.
What kept me going was to focus on the next step and not let the image of the daunting ridge at the last stretch discourage me as I put one foot in front of the other and finally made it to the top of the mountain.
Don’t underestimate where determination and will can lead you. It might just give you the edge and unfair advantage you need to succeed in life. These two traits will impact how far we go in realising our dreams and this time, it helped me take the summit.
I was single-minded that giving up was not an option, which I believe led to the successful completion of scaling Mount Rinjani.
Through this, I realise how much of conquering this mountain was a mental game and that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.
5) Success is a Journey Not a Destination
During the ascent up Mt Rinjani, all we could focus on was to reaching the top of the mountain. But what helped make our journey much more meaningful and not all about achieving our goal, was to appreciate the journey that we are on this scenic trek.
Climbing a mountain is a journey. It helped when we broke the climb into smaller, more attainable steps.
Albeit each goal was challenging, it helped keep our spirits up when we broke it down to smaller milestones and celebrate every little victory.
When we achieve our goal arriving at every pit stop, we rejoice and enjoy a good break before we continue on our hike.
We listened to our bodies and, when any of us felt we needed to take a break, we would do so together, sharing snacks we brought over good conversations while we take the time to rest and recuperate.
At any point of time, when a magnificent view presented itself, we would take some time to appreciate and revel in nature’s beauty, snapping some pictures in between but ultimately, taking in all that nature has to offer and be present in the moment.
That gave us the much needed energy boost to carry on our journey.
A couple of us wanted to give up halfway in our climb up to the summit because we missed the sunrise and we already saw how scenic the view of the crater lake was from where we were.
We did not see a point in reaching the top and questioned whether the view at the peak was worth the tortuous pursuit. Thankfully the view was well worth the pain as we persevered on to make it to the summit.
We were greeted with an awe-inspiring panorama to behold, but in the event it was not the experience that was worth celebrating.
As with work and life, no matter how busy and focused we are in achieving our goal, remember to take time to smell the roses. Sometimes being at the top is not as great as it seems.
Live for the journey, not the destination. It is the journey that teaches you a lot more about yourself. Following my late father’s advice that he lives by and preaches, celebrate the small wins.
Appreciate the journey that you are on. Joy is found not in finishing but doing it
6) It is Who You Bring Along on This Journey That Matters
I took a leap of faith joining this group knowing only one of them – my cousin.
I was blessed to have such wonderful comrades to share this experience with.
The moments shared taking picturesque views were priceless.
What made it a much more pleasant journey was their enthusiastic energy and positive vibes that they constantly exuded which kept me going and pumped up throughout.
I am thankful to be able to share this experience with my cousin whom I have been meaning to travel with for a while.
This trip has not only solidified our close relationship but also confirms how we do make great travel buddies in the future.
We were the last two in the group to finish the hike and there were times my cousin would be a few steps ahead of me and vice versa.
Our guides would ask us to go ahead and not worry about the others but it gave me great encouragement and comfort knowing there was someone alongside me even at the end.
I believe that morale boost was needed not only for me but for her too as we cheered and spurred each other on in the last stretch.
What came to our pleasant surprise was to find three of our other team members, waited hours at the summit for us to reach the finishing line.
That moved me because they could have waited down at base camp but they wanted to share the moment of joy of reaching the summit together with us.
Similarly, in life, we are not meant to walk on this journey alone. Succeeding in this goal together was so much more fulfilling when shared.
This has taught me that leadership is serving others, sharing with others and doing things together, not as a lone ranger.
Finally made it! The momentous picture at the peak (altitude 3725m)
7) Find what this means to you
Throughout the four-day hike, I would question why I put myself through such torture. It’s similar with marathon runners and athletes, who put themselves through pain to realise their definition of success and accomplishment.
It started off just as an item to tick off my bucket list but in those moments of torture, you would have to dig deeper than it being just about seeing those beautiful sights in person especially knowing how much of a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding feat it is.
I am reminded of how I wanted to accomplish this to prove to myself I am able to do this – that I am still fit and have physical endurance as I advance in age, I have the willpower and tenacity to achieve what I set my mind to, that I am emotionally and mentally strong to be disciplined and attain success.
It is in those moments when you want to give up that you are reminded of the encouragement and morale boost from your fellow comrades around you, the love and prayers from back home – these support systems became my backbone and inspiration that fuelled me.
That was when I realise that I do not want to only do this for myself but in honour of those who stood by me.
In life, dig deeper into what you define as success means to you. Don’t just get caught in the rat race or the motions of what other people coin as success, but instead make meaning of your dreams, of what you do and the journey you are on.
Sometimes, that’s what you need to get through a rough season or much needed boost for you to go the extra mile.
So, what did this hike mean to me? Freedom.
Freedom to reach your dreams, fulfil your heart’s desires, achieve success. Freedom to conquer any obstacle, challenge or mountain that come your way. Freedom – that feeling you get when your wave your country’s Jalur Gemilang at the top of the world.
Amanda Chua is part of the Leaderonomics Good Monday team that specialises in enhancing workplace employee engagement through coaching and developing great managers. Being a coach herself with “Developer” as one of her dominant talent, she has always been passionate about engaging and empowering individuals, especially in the field of learning and development. To know more on how to engage your team better through development, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org