An Interview with Alison Levine [Video]

This past spring, I had the privilege of hosting the Chick-fil-A Leadercast Backstage program. I interviewed several notable authors as they came off the stage, including Seth Godin, Sir Ken Robinson, Dan Cathy, John Maxwell, and Frans Johansson. I am continuing to share these on a weekly basis.

In this interview, I talk to Alison Levine, an amazing woman that I met for the first time. Her life is an eloquent testimony to the fact that, despite physical challenges, you can accomplish extraordinary things—especially if you are persistent.

Here’s a quick list of her accomplishments:

  • Alison served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition.
  • She skied across the Arctic Circle to the geographic North Pole.
  • She made history as the first American to complete a 600-mile journey from west Antarctica to the South Pole.
  • She completed the Adventure Grand Slam—climbing the Seven Summits (highest peak on each continent) and skiing to both Poles, an accomplishment fewer than thirty people in the world can claim.

And get this: she accomplished all this despite the fact that she has had three heart surgeries and suffers from a neurological disease that causes the arteries that feed her fingers and toes to collapse in cold weather, leaving her at extreme risk for frostbite. Wow.

In this four-minute clip, I ask her about her first attempt to summit Mt. Everest in 2002. She led the first women’s team ever to attempt this feat. All the major media were covering her expedition. Ford Motor Company was a major sponsor. Talk about pressure! Yet, she made the tough decision to turn back just 200 feet from the summit.

Though heart-breaking, she didn’t give up. She came back to Mt. Everest in 2010 at the age of 44 with another team. This time, they successfully reached the summit.

Alison is now an adjunct professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She specializes in the field of “leadership in extreme environments.” In this interview, we talk about her experience. I asked:

  • How was your second attempt to climb Mt. Everest different than the first?
  • What was it like to make the decision to quit so close to the goal, especially as the team leader?
  • Did you ever second-guess your decision to turn around? How do you feel about it now?
  • What do you do when life blows apart your carefully-crafted plans?
Question: What do you take away from Alison’s comments in terms of your own leadership? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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