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Act more like a Sherpa, less like an expert

"You don’t learn how to climb Mount Everest by sitting in a classroom listening to abstract theory, or even studying cases of other expeditions."

In a blog post for the LSE, consultant and author Deborah Rowland contends that leadership development in today’s dynamic landscape requires that faculty acts less as experts, and more as Sherpas.

The five features of the Sherpa role she identifies as forming the essence of leadership development requirements of today are:

  1. Sherpas can take people to their ‘edge’, without having them fall.

  2. The Sherpa’s place is to walk alongside the climber – not from afar, or, from the front.

  3. The key Sherpa’s skill is one of deep listening, to make continued and wise adjustments to the journey.

  4. Having said that, good Sherpas plan the route carefully, knowing (enough of) the terrain, fixing the ropes in place.

  5. The deep social custom of the original ethnic Sherpas group was to help imbue each tour with spiritual meaning – climbing the peaks is a sacred act.

The more I reflect on this concept, the more I am struck with how this resonates for my clients - not just in the work I do for the people I serve, but in the role they play as leaders and managers within their organisations.

What is leadership if not challenging while supporting, walking alongside and listening deeply, planning carefully with knowledge and foresight, and enabling their people to find a deeper sense of purpose and the courage to do what's difficult, requiring the utmost compassion and respect?

To read Deborah's post in full visit

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