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15 Things We Learnt in the Mountains That Will Make You A Better Leader

How to bring the Alptitude way into your everyday

“So are blueberries a superfood?”

I asked.

“Sure there are some foods that are better for you than others, but on their own they don’t provide the nutrients you need. You need to eat the rainbow.”

Graham replied.

This got me thinking.

We’d just finished one of the sessions at Alptitude, our hard-to-describe gathering of entrepreneurs and changemakers that happens each June in the Alps (and now in Oregon each October).

When we came up with the concept of Alptitude with our friend Jack in 2015 the idea was a simple one. The conference format was broken, big events don’t deliver and anyway the best bits are the in-between bits.

So we created a whole week-long event that was just this and trusted that game-changing ideas, inspiration and connections would come out of it. Fast forward 3 years and we’ve just returned from our 5th Alptitude across 2 continents and now seen more than 100 people be part of this growing tribe of leaders and founders.

Graham’s words made me realise why these events – and the people that are attracted to them – differ to almost anything else out there.

While many just focus on one area of human potential, at Alptitude we get to experience the full spectrum.

  • Wellbeing is important, but so is adventure
  • Having deep conversations is important, but so is letting our hair down
  • We all love to learn, but love to teach too
  • We all love to talk, but are also great listeners
  • We all ask for help, but also offer it in droves
  • We all take our work seriously, but know how to have fun

At Alptitude 2018 even the sky wasn’t the limit and we all faced, and in many cases dissolved, our biggest challenges in the company of new friends that were strangers just days ago.

There’s magic in them there mountains.

“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.” Confucius

I’ve found that each time we do these events, we get a unique perspective of what really matters, and a glimpse into the future of work, which for us and many others we work with, is more and more becoming the present.

Not work-life balance, but work-life blend, where we bring our fullest selves to our work – where who we are and what we do are aligned.

We know that not everyone will get to be part of an event like this – but luckily it’s possible to bring the Alptitude vibe into your every day through some small actions.

Here I share the Alptitude way in 15 steps – with some ways you can level up.

1. Embrace stillness

Most of us lead busy lives, forever bombarded with distractions and demands on our time. At Alptitude there was plenty of ‘me’ time – the option of yoga, pilates, Qi Gong, swimming, a massage, sauna or a silent walk. And even though we were often in a group, even on hikes we made a point to carve out some alone time – a few quiet minutes to take in the surroundings – where we could notice more and at the same time get some perspective. Before where things were a little cloudy, the sky would clear. And in the heart of the mountains, what starts out like a deathly silence, quickly transforms into an orchestra of birdsong.

Tip: Put life on hold for just a few minutes each day by using The Pause Tool

2. Head outdoors

We’re mammals – we’re made to be outdoors. When we get out in nature and breathe in fresh air we instantly feel better for it – somehow our problems become lighter. Our senses awaken and we sleep better too, life somehow seems simpler and this frees up our mind to think more expansively. But you don’t need to live in the wilderness to experience these benefits – if you’re in the city head out to a park or square at every opportunity.

Tip: Take your lunch (or a call/meeting) outdoors rather than dining al desko

3. Tame the distraction machine

More and more the research is pointing to what we already know and feel, that our health and happiness improves when we spend more time off our electronic devices. But knowing that we’re addicted and doing something about it are two different things. Poor wifi and expensive 4G sure helps to break the habit, but there are some small things you can do to take control.

Tip: Turn off ‘raise to wake’ so you’re not tempted to check your phone on pick up

4. Spend time with like minds

Us human beings are social creatures and we need each other to provide us with a sense of connection and purpose. The more disconnected we are, the unhappier we become – loneliness can quickly lead to depression. At Alptitude strangers became friends in days, and although there was a wildly diverse group of people from all walks of life and cultures, we were bound together by an open mindset and shared desire to make a positive dent in the world.

Tip: Find your tribe whether gathering online or in person

5. Seek a little adventure

As we get older we can get set in our ways and close the door to opportunity. We tend to take the safe option, our comfort zone gets smaller and we tell ourselves stories about what we are and aren’t capable of. At Alptitude people that didn’t like getting wet much were throwing themselves off bridges and into fast-flowing ravines below – physical limits were smashed and their faces lit up as they re-discovered their inner child. You’re never too old to be a kid again.

Tip: Try your hand at a new activity or head out on a microadventure near you

Workshops Alptitude style

6. Learn through sharing

While most event organisers pack the schedule with content, a new model of learning fit for the 21st century is required — one that is more emergent and ultimately effective. At Alptitude we didn’t invite in speakers or workshop leaders, everyone had their say and the agenda was set by the participants. Everyone contributed their knowledge in some way, whether offering a talk, session or discussion. We teach best what we most need to learn.

Tip: Attend or create an open space event and experience emergence in action

7. Let your guard down

It’s all too easy in business to look like we know it all, to share our successes and get the acclaim that comes with it. But it can take a special kind of leader to show the cracks in your armoury and admit to your failures. But if you want to be a true leader of people in the 21st century you need to show your human side. After all, if you don’t open up and speak honestly, how can you reasonably expect anyone else to? We create a safe space to have the conversations that matter, sadly something all too rare.

Tip: Discover the power of vulnerability and practice it in the workplace

8. Listen intently

In life you’ll find most people are great at talking, but not so good at listening. At Alptitude people spent time to really understand what it is you were trying to say, and gave feedback and advice without judgement.

Tip: Learn how to be a more empathic listener in this free webinar

9. Ask for help

Most people are terrible at asking for help when they need it. We made a point of getting all participants to be clear about what it is they need (and what’s blocking them) so they can move forward. We hosted lots of ‘hot seats’ – where anyone could pose a particular challenge that they were facing, with a view to getting valuable feedback from the bright minds in the group.

Tip: Run an Ideas Café to get in the habit of asking for help from your peers

A time to reflect at Alptitude

10. Embrace emotions

In modern life there’s no shortage of companies willing to offer us quick fixes to suppress what we might be feeling deep down – instant gratification is the name of the day. But when you create space – whether 10 minutes to do nothing or 7 days at an experience like Alptitude – emotions can slowly surface and we can start to feel again. Sometimes these feelings can be a surprise, and require handling with care, but we can’t experience true happiness without sadness.

Tip: Create a little space each day to do nothing – but just feel whatever comes up

11. Be part of something bigger

People who have purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and experience less stress, anxiety and depression. But where do we find purpose? The answers vary for each of us but they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves. Everyone at Alptitude was connected in some way to something bigger than themselves – they were on a quest to make the lives of others meaningfully better

Tip: Offer a little of your time to a cause or project that is close to your heart

12. Appreciate nature

The sheer scale of The Alps can be awe-inspiring, but this shouldn’t detract, or even compete with, the world beneath our feet. As one participant said, each element has their own measure of success and unique beauty, a powerful metaphor for the week.

Tip: The next time you’re in nature notice something you haven’t noticed before

13. Lighten up

Over the course of the 7 days we had lots and lots of deep and meaningful conversations and sessions, which at times can feel overwhelming. Which means we made a real effort to create plenty of moments of lightness, where our minds could be free and we could be in the moment – from Cards against Humanity to mountain-top sing-a-longs.

Tip: Play a game, bake a cake or dance like no-one is watching

14. Be yourself (everybody else is taken)

Far too many people put on a mask at work which differs wildly with the version they show to their friends and family. But only by being truly authentic at work, where our actions marry our beliefs, will will be living fully. Wholeheartedness is a quality that the next generation of leaders will have as a prerequisite, and at the core of purposeful companies.

Tip: Learn the art of being yourself and be a little more authentic each day

15. Eat the rainbow

And as I mentioned earlier, Graham Alcott shared some tips for how to eat better to work better including the importance of eating lots of colourful fruit and veg in our dishes. He’s living proof that through better nutrition we can boost our effectiveness at work, whilst improving our health and increasing our life expectancy in the process. And as he said, no-one is a saint so don’t worry about what you’ve eaten today, focus on what you eat on most days. We’re all human after all.

Tip: Feel better & more productive by aiming for a colourful plate with each meal

Are you a purpose-driven entrepreneur or leader? Want to level up and be part of a unique community of likeminded people? Applications are now open for our next Alptitude retreat in 2020 – more info here

Thanks to Katrina Tan for the wonderful pictures



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