Herta von Stiegel, author, "The Mountain Within"

Who she is: The founder and CEO of the Ariya Capital Group, a Gaborone- and UK-based fund management firm focusing on sustainable investments in Africa, is an international executive who has held senior positions at Citibank and JP Morgan.

What she does: She is also the woman who in July 2008 spearheaded a trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro with 28 climbers—seven of them disabled. Against incredible odds, 60 percent of the group made it to the summit—remarkable, considering that only 35 percent of climbers typically achieve that goal.

Why she does it: The Mountain Within is the book that came from the experience. It bears the name of Herta’s award-winning documentary, which vividly tells the emotionally charged story of the climb that changed her life.

Leadership Lessons from Herta von Stiegel’s “The Mountain Within.”

“This book is about leadership,” explains von Stielel in the introduction to her book, The Mountain Within. “The reason why is simple. We need a new brand of business and political leaders … who can relate spiritually and humanely to their fellow human beings, who can overcome challenges and exhibit innovation, creativity, and the courage to tackle obstacles as they arise. In this case, it was an actual mountain that was scaled. But leaders should realize that it is the mountain within that needs to be conquered, one day at a time.”

In fact, the 16 leadership lessons in the book are the perfect guide for today’s business and political leaders. See some of those, below.

Also intriguing are her conversations, which she recounts in the book, with some of the world’s most influential business leaders, including Al Gore, David Blood, Kay Unger, Sung-Joo Kim, Dr. Joachim Faber, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, Marsha Serlin, and more.

And now, on to the lessons:

1. Resilience: Choose to Persevere. Whenever the outlook starts to look grim, don’t give up. Persevere when things are tough and you can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel. Persevere, whether you are struggling across a boulder field or in a conference room, whether you are dealing with the secret police or with hostile executives who can destroy your career, even when (or especially when) you don’t have a penny to your name. Look inward and remember your high points, those moments of undeniable success that you have achieved. Look to your personal life also for the resources and guidance that you need—it’s not all about business. Remember that calm voice from inside that brought clarity to chaotic times in the past. Remember those moments when the stakes were high and you made it work. Perseverance is what gets us through, it is the first step toward bouncing back, brushing oneself off, and resuming one’s course.

2. Career vs. Calling: Hang on to Your Vision. People will discourage you. They may tell you that your vision of how you see your success is unrealistic, culturally wrong, unsophisticated, or impractical. But if you have a vision in your heart (if you feel it), you know it. Choose to do more than just build a career, important as that may be. Discover your calling, your passion, and pursue your vision—not just for money or fame, but also to make a real difference in the world.

3. Project Management: Divide Your Journey Into Steps. You best chance at reaching a goal that you’ve set is to survey it in its entirety; then sit down and painstakingly divide it into small, achievable steps. Not only does this promote progress, it reduces stress and gives you small feelings of accomplishment along the way. After all, we all need as much self-encouragement as we can muster. Another good idea is to hire and train employees who are able to master this technique. Rather than being overwhelmed, they’ll be optimistic and enthusiastic as they tick off each small achievement on the list. I’ll bet you that these employees will be the ones who are most likely to succeed—and, in turn, that will make your entire team successful.

4. The Attraction of Preparation: Ruthlessly Prepare. It’s not enough to prepare for the obvious. Preparation means assessing the entire situation that presents itself, and most importantly, the human beings around you. It means planning for contingencies and looking at that details in the most objective way possible—while never losing sight of the big picture.

5. Failure: Fail Fast, and Fail Forward. There will always be people around you—jealous colleagues, conniving up-and-comers, threatened leaders on the way down—who are ready to use your failure as a dagger. It is anything but. Each failure breeds more learning, and gives you a fresh frame of reference for a new beginning. Not only does failure lead to personal growth—it leads to success. The more you fail, the more you are trying. Don’t give up. Give failure its proper role in your mind: a place to dwell briefly, learn and reflect, and move on from quickly.

To learn more, click here to buy The Mountain Within.


The Women