Lead Like a Guide
How World-Class Mountain Guides Inspire Us to Be Better Leaders
by Christopher I. Maxwell, PhD
September 2016, 133pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4416-4
$41, £31, 36€, A56
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4417-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Building leadership strengths and fostering them in others is vital for success in today’s complex business world.

Discover the leadership strengths of world-class mountain guides and see how developing and applying these principles can help you reach for the highest summits in work—and in life.

This intriguing approach to business and personal success introduces six leadership strengths of world-class mountain guides: demonstrating social intelligence; adopting a flexible leadership style; empowering others; facilitating the development of trust; managing risk in an environment of uncertainty; and seeing the big picture. The premise is that these same strengths provide a valuable model in the workplace and other networks, whether one is already in a leadership position or aspiring to get there.

The result of more than a decade of research combined with the author’s personal experience, the book explains how mountain guides coach people to reach for their highest goals in the most challenging environments, often enabling them to far exceed what they imagined possible. The same principles can be applied in business and elsewhere. To set readers on the right path, the author explains six strengths of guides, incorporating interviews and quotes from guides and expedition participants to illustrate leadership lessons and show how they can be successfully used off the slopes. The book also provides a checklist of action steps readers can follow to foster skill development.


  • Teaches key leadership lessons gained from a decade spent traveling with world-class mountain guides and more than 200 top business school participants
  • Shares insights drawn from challenging experiences that will be inspiring and meaningful to readers
  • Includes contributions from participants who tell, in their own words, how they applied lessons learned in organizations from American Express to Microsoft to a Silicon Valley startup
  • Provides action steps for readers drawn from current research in the fields of management and positive psychology
Christopher Maxwell, PhD, is Senior Fellow, Center for Leadership and Change Management, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He taught a foundation leadership course at the Wharton School for 15 years and created a leadership development program for undergraduates that took more than 200 business students to high peaks and trails in six countries. Maxwell's work has been published by the Organization Management Journal, Wharton@Work, Center for Creative Leadership, and the Wharton Leadership Digest.


“Whether your passion is mountaineering or business, Lead Like a Guide makes a compelling case that the ultimate act of leadership is helping others reach as high as they can.” —Adam Grant, Wharton Professor and New York Times best-selling author of Give and Take and Originals

"An accomplished leadership educator, Chris Maxwell is as comfortable on a mountain peak as he is in a classroom. In his book he brings together his amazing talents and provides the reader clear lessons and insights on some of the most valuable leadership principles that are as applicable to the board room or government as they are to being part of a mountain-climbing team.”—Jeffrey D. McCausland, PhD, Former Dean, U.S. Army War College, National Security Consultant for CBS Radio and TV, and Founder and CEO, Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC

“By looking far afield we sometimes see best what is most vital for home. From interviews with mountain guides and those they have led, Chris Maxwell offers absorbing accounts in Lead Like a Guide that show that thinking strategically, appraising risk, and empowering followers are essential not only for mountaineering but also for management.” —Michael Useem, PhD, Professor and Director of the Leadership Center, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and coauthor of Boards That Lead

“Chris Maxwell succinctly uncovers the true spirit of leadership by exploring the way guides adapt and improvise under often adverse and dangerous conditions, to best serve the safety of the experience and the growth of the individual—natural and servant leadership exposed.”—Andrew Muir (Dr.), CEO, Wilderness Foundation Global and Wilderness Foundation Africa

“Full of powerful insights from both guides and participants with valuable lessons about leadership.”—Monica L. Pugh, Director, Center for Student Leadership, University of Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico

“As an executive coach and leadership consultant, just about everything in my work is filtered through my lens of over 30 years spent in the business of guiding others in the wilderness. Chris Maxwell has thoroughly researched, and eloquently captured the leadership lessons of others as well as his own, through his extensive experience in the mountains. Lead Like a Guide will inspire and engage the reader to be a better leader, whether with peers or in the boardroom.”—John Kanengieter, Director for Leadership, National Outdoor Leadership School; Principal, Kanengieter Consulting Group; and former mountain guide

“At last! In true adventurous style, Chris Maxwell has dared to go where others have not and puts tangible value on the hidden-in-the-shadows and intensely relevant skills that professional guides use every day. He offers a razor-sharp view through a rarely seen window to explain the tools guides use to help people from all walks of life achieve extraordinary goals in challenging and uncertain circumstances. Lead Like a Guide offers a well-researched master class for anyone to learn these robust real-time principles, but without the risks (and smelly clothes!).”—Graham Charles, Polar Expedition Leader and Outdoor Educator

“The six strengths of a mountain guide, identified by Chris Maxwell, are useful for any leader or manager of an entrepreneurial enterprise if it is to thrive in conditions of uncertainty. Anyone who seeks to lead a team, however large or small, can learn from and benefit from applying these strengths to their own way of working.”—Nunzio Quacquarelli, Managing Director, Quacquarelli Symonds Limited (UK)
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