Editor’s note: Alison Levine, First American Women's Everest Expedition Team Captain and a New York Times bestselling author of “On the Edge,” will be the opening keynote speaker at ISACA’s 2020 North America CACS conference, to take place 12-14 May in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Levine draws upon her background in extreme adventuring to convey insights on leadership and overcoming difficult challenges. She recently visited with ISACA Now to provide her perspective on navigating fear and professional challenges. The following is a transcript, edited for length and clarity:
ISACA Now: What was the toughest aspect of the American Women’s Everest Expedition?
It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing. There are so many things that were really tough: the weather, the effects of extreme altitude, the homesickness, the doubt that kept crawling back into my mind that said, “Don't be silly – you can’t do this!” And I had to just keep saying, “SHUT UP. Yes I can!”
ISACA Now: What are the main life lessons that stick with you from your extreme adventuring background?
You don’t have to be the fastest or the strongest to get to the top of a mountain; you just have to be absolutely relentless about putting one foot in front of the other.
ISACA Now: The title of your keynote is “Fear is OK, But Complacency Will Kill You.” What is the fine line for when fear is constructive as opposed to paralyzing?
Fear is a normal, human emotion, and when you feel fear, it’s a good thing because it means you are alert, aware, and you are processing what is going on around you. Fear is only dangerous when it paralyzes you. COMPLACENCY is what puts you at risk. If you do not move, you are not going to survive.
ISACA Now: How is the fast-evolving technology landscape changing what it means to be a leader today?
Leaders today need to be able to pivot and change direction quickly since the business landscape is constantly shifting and changing. You have to be able to take action based on the situation at the time, and not based on a plan that you came up with at some point in the past. Plans are outdated as soon as they are finished.
ISACA Now: What do you consider to be some overlooked characteristics of excellent leaders?
Often people equate quietness with weakness or apathy, when in reality, the ability to stay quiet and still is actually a display of strength.