The Seven Summits of Success
Authors: Robert Heller and Rebecca Stephens
Reviewed by: John Charlton
Not content with becoming the first British woman to climb Mount Everest, Rebecca Stephens has also climbed the highest peaks in each of the world’s seven continents.
This achievement lies behind The Seven Summits of Success, which she co-authored with management guru and business journalist, Robert Heller.
Each chapter is devoted to Stephens’ description of a particular climb, and the lessons learned. Heller then takes her experiences and uses them as an allegorical backdrop, against which he develops his views and theories on success and failure in management, leadership and business.
Each climb provides a theme. Everest looks at trusting in teamwork, while Kilimanjaro, with a height of 19,340 feet and the first of the seven summits covered in the book, represents opportunity.
It prompts Heller to tell the stories of IT legends Compaq and Microsoft, which started small, but thought big. Or, as he puts it: “Think Everest, but start Kilimanjaro.”
He’s keen on IT companies and their leaders, especially Microsoft and Bill Gates. In the chapter Thinking Positively, which relates to Stephens’ ascent of Andean peak Aconcagua, Heller uses Gates’ response to the challenge of rival internet browser Netscape to exemplify positive thinking.
The book states that “Gates won internal and external battles to emerge with the company more powerful, more dominant than ever. That’s positive thinking to the power of n”. And I thought that Microsoft simply exploited its desktop monopoly to bundle Internet Explorer with the Windows desktop operating system?
The result was that Netscape, having metaphorically scaled Kilimanjaro, fell off Everest when the ‘Great Gatesby’ cut its oxygen supply. Now there’s a lesson that business people can learn from!
Perseverance, planning and goal setting are the key qualities that business leaders can learn from moutaineering, and these areas are dealt with deftly enough by Stephens and Heller.