Title : Beyond the Mountains: Overcoming the Challenges Within
-10 Lessons for Leading in Crisis
Author: Sunder Hemrajani
Genre : Self Help
Language : English
Publisher : Allied Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Pages : 106
Cost : INR 250.00
Available : https://www.amazon.in/dp/9389934273/
Review by : Prof (Dr) Mahul Brahma
The author Sunder Hemrajani is a well-known corporate leader and his love for the mountains is widely-known and very evident from this book. Every allusion is given from the point of view of a mountaineering expedition. This makes the perspectives unique and a clutter-breaker from the bulk of leadership-lesson books that hit the market. The first thing that I was pleasantly surprised to notice was the selection of a quote from ‘Brihadaranyaka Upanishad’ which contains the essence of the book as well as life.
“You are what your deepest desire is
As your desire is, so is your intention
As your intention is, so is your will
As your will is, so is your deed
As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
Dear reader, he talks about the expeditions in details and for any mountain-lover it is a treat to see the details with which Sunder has shared his experience, which also has a real-life story of the lessons that he shares in the latter part of the book. Sunder has a lucid writing style and it is quite engaging as well. The book is a quick read and a treat for mountain lovers and trekkers, who can identify themselves with the scenarios he has shared.
Of the 10 life lessons Sunder has shared, I have picked up five to whet your appetite for more:
- Articulating a compelling vision that inspires others to follow.
The author gives an example on how he realised it was important for him to spend more time and energy in discussion the purpose and direction with the team before embarking on the trek. And thereby hangs a lesson. While a leader may have a vivid vision, in order to inspire others to follow, he or she needs to invest considerable time with the team and get their buy in. Once the vision is shared, it becomes easy for the collective to attain it and keep the team together in challenging times. Articulating a compelling vision that inspires others to follow.
- Take appropriate well-reasoned risks.
Risk is a critical element that a leader has to consider as it is inherent in any venture. For a mountain climber or a trekker, lives are at risk. The author states that there were so many failed expeditions on Mount Everest and many lives were lost before Tenzing and Hillary made it to the summit in 1953. In the corporate world the risks can be money or personal assets or even reputation. Therefore, a detailed cost benefit analysis is needed whether in the corporate or while trekking – a balance is needed between present skills, team’s determination and demand of the task.An interesting point made by the author is that the ego of the leader can sometimes compel him or her to overlook the learnings from the past experiences in handling risky phases or stretches in corporate life or in mountaineering expeditions. Egos haves resulted in disasters.
- Foster trust and bounded optimism in crisis.
A crisis like Covid is the test for true leadership. And it is during crisis that a leader needs to foster trust both among team members and in himself or herself and be empathetic. The leader has to navigate from point to point and keep defining the short-term goals without losing sight of the summit in a trek or the strategic objective of the organisation in the corporate.
As a professor of crisis communications, I always talk about the critical role played by empathy in leadership communication. I found resonance of that in Sunder’s lessons.
- Teamwork is a force multiplier.
Teamwork is critical for the success of any expedition or corporate ambition. In challenging situations, it has a multiplier effect. The contributions of every member makes the collective effort greater than just the sum of parts. The author shares example from his trek. He wrote: “It was heartening to see individuals slip into roles they were comfortable with. Kamal, NK, Navin and Raghu were happy to get involved in cooking. Chandra was an outstanding darner on the trek. Krish was the medicine man on both treks who excelled in this role apart from belting out the songs. Sandeep, Shekar and I would help with bringing buckets of water from the nearest source. Others would help with other chores. This helped enhance the productivity of the team.”
- Play to Win.
Leaders need to make a choice at every step of way, either they have ‘play to win’ or ‘play not to lose’. This makes a clear demarcation of the approach the leader will take – offensive or defensive. The author attributes the success of the two expeditions to this ‘play to win’ mindset. In a corporate world as well it is the perception of a situation and the approach to tackle it makes all the difference. Play to win gives a relentless pursuit of new opportunities with a single-minded focus.
In the end, a leader must never lose sight of the endgame.
About the Reviewer:
Prof (Dr) Mahul Brahma is a Professor of Crisis Communications and Dean-School of Media and Communications at Adamas University. He is TEDx Speaker, ex-chief editor, columnist, luxury commentator and author of “How to Communicate Strategically in Corporate World” and the luxe trilogy, which comprises “Decoding Luxe”, “Dark Luxe” and “Luxe Inferno”. He has won several awards in CSR, communications and branding.