Alison Levine: Leaders bear pain with grace, vigor

On the climb to Mount Everest, there are no PTO days. And leaders who don't grin and bear a little pain now and then are hardly leaders at all.

Such was one of the many valuable lessons imparted by leadership expert Alison Levine in her keynote address Thursday at The Plexus Groupe's 2016 Team Building Event.

Levine, whose lessons learned from climbing Mount Everest are detailed in her New York Times best-selling book On the Edge, told the story Thursday of throwing up while leading the long, arduous ascent to Everest, then smiling through a photo not long thereafter.

"It's a reminder that when you are in a leadership position, even when you feel like absolute hell, you still have to get out there and do your job," said Levine, who addressed Plexus staff at the headquarters of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in Schaumburg, Ill.

What leadership is, Levine said, is about understanding and accepting the "collective responsibility to help the team move toward a goal. And everybody also has the responsibility to be looking out for one another."

Added Levine: "As a leader, you can never expect the people on your team to be willing to endure anything that you are not willing to endure."

Levine's talk also discussed the topic of setbacks, of not quite reaching goals. And when she spoke of having to stop climbs to return to base camp, she made an especially powerful point.

"We tend to think that progress has to happen in one particular direction. But that's not the case," Levine said. "Sometimes, you are going to have to go backwards for a bit in order to get to where you eventually want to be."

For more on Levine, including information on speaking engagements, be sure to visit her website,


[Photo credit: Mark Campbell /]