How Alison Levine Reached the Summit of Everest and Business

Chronicling an Inspirational Leader's Ascent

Into The Void: Alison Levine drags her sled toward the South Pole.
Erick Phillips, IceTrek
Into The Void: Alison Levine drags her sled toward the South Pole.

By Curt Schleier

Published January 24, 2014, issue of January 31, 2014.
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Alison Levine is scheduled to speak to the New York chapter of 85 Broads, a national women’s networking group. That is, she will speak if she can get to the meeting room.

Levine and her retinue — four representatives of her publisher and a reporter — are in the lobby of the McGraw-Hill Building trying to make it past security. Levine’s topic is the leadership lessons she learned climbing to the tops of the highest mountains on each continent and skiing to both the North and South Pole.

Her accomplishment is called the Adventure Grand Slam and only about 40 people have ever done it. It is arduous and demanding, yet, at the moment, scaling Everest seems to pale in comparison to getting to the 50th floor of 1221 Avenue of the Americas.

“The security is tighter here,” she conceded with a smile.

Levine, 47, doesn’t look like a mountain climber, at least if your idea of a mountain climber is someone brawny and capable of jumping deep crevasses in a single bound.

“I hear that a lot,” Levine admits. She is slight — 5 feet 4 inches tall, a little over 100 pounds. “What’s hard about that is you have to carry the same amount of gear as a guy 6’4” and 280 pounds whose legs are longer.”

She overcomes her physical limitations by preparation in a real world environment. “Training for hours on a StairMaster indoors is incredibly helpful if you’re planning to, oh, I don’t know, climb a lot of stairs.”

That is one of many nuggets of wisdom culled from her new book, “On the Edge: The Art of High Impact Leadership.” Levine has successfully created a cottage industry by applying the knowledge she acquired in extreme sports to what she calls “today’s extreme business environment.”

In addition to consulting for and speaking to executives of Fortune 500 companies, she serves as adjunct professor at the United States Military Academy and works with leadership programs at West Point and Duke University.


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