Last May, I spent a week on Mt. Rainier, enrolled in a mountaineering training course. The experience reiterated a crucial fact I had already gathered from previous mountains – successful mountaineering pivots on the trifecta of the right mindset, skillset, and toolset.
The ‘mindset’ aspect goes beyond just physical fitness. Sure, being fit is essential, but the real challenge is mental. It’s about marching through lengthy, chilling, and sometimes pitch-dark trails, even when every fiber in your body would prefer to take a break.
The ‘skillset’ involves technical know-how. You must understand the dynamics of being part of a rope team, thoroughly understand your equipment, and be capable of swiftly setting up and dismantling camp.
As for the ‘toolset,’ having the right equipment can make or break your climb. Mental strength and skillsets might propel you forward, but your journey will be short-lived without vital tools like ropes, crampons, and an ice axe.
Finally, combining these three elements in a real-world scenario is the ultimate test. Practicing at sea level is one thing, but applying your skills on icy slopes at altitudes exceeding 10,000 feet is a different ball game.
The Same Is True for Leaders
The principles of maintaining the right mindset, skillset, and toolset aren’t confined to mountain climbing. They’re equally crucial in our daily work, especially for leaders. It’s essential for leaders to continually reflect on their reasons for leading and the influence they aim to have. Understanding your motivations and being clear about your ‘why’ helps put things in perspective and solidify your mindset. That’s important in day-to-day work but is critical when facing difficult times.
Your skillset also plays a significant role. As a leader, you should be in a state of constant learning and growth. Enhancing your skills or broadening your knowledge will allow you to meet your team’s needs today and in the future.
Similarly, continually updating your toolset is essential. This can range from handy quick-reference sheets to the newest technology. Tools assist you in making informed decisions, cultivating trust, and maintaining the right course.
Finally, as in mountaineering, you must apply your mindset, skillset, and toolset to navigate whatever ‘mountain’ lies ahead of you at work. You’ll gain the most insightful lessons about yourself and your team through tackling challenging tasks.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.