First American Women’s Everest Expedition Team Captain, faculty member at the Thayer Leader Development Group at West Point, New York Times bestselling author of On the Edge
Alison Levine has made a career out of breaking boundaries and inspiring others to achieve more than they ever thought possible. A history-making polar explorer and mountaineer, she served as team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, climbed the highest peak on each continent and skied to both the North and South Poles—a feat known as the Adventure Grand Slam which fewer than forty people in the world have achieved.
In January 2008, she made history as the first American to complete a 600-mile traverse across west Antarctica to the South Pole following the route of legendary explorer Reinhold Messner. Levine completed this arduous journey on skis while hauling 150 pounds of her gear and supplies in a sled harnessed to her waist. She made history again in 2016 when she completed two first ascents: Hall Peak in Antarctica and Khang Karpo in Nepal. Her success in extreme environments is noteworthy given she has had three heart surgeries and suffers from Raynaud’s disease, which causes the arteries that feed her fingers and toes to collapse in cold weather—leaving her at extreme risk for frostbite.
In addition to climbing mountains, Levine has also spent time climbing the corporate ladder. She has worked for several Fortune 500 companies in both sales and marketing roles and spent three years at Goldman Sachs. She left Wall Street in 2003 to serve as Deputy Finance Director for Arnold Schwarzenegger in his successful bid to become governor of California.
When not challenging herself in the outdoors, Levine focuses on training others to become strong leaders. She spent four years as an adjunct professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership. In 2013 she transitioned from training cadets to working with corporate leaders and currently serves on the board and faculty of the Thayer Leader Development Group at West Point – one of the nation’s premiere executive leader development programs. She was a contributing author to the book Leadership in Dangerous Situations: A Handbook for the Armed Forces, Emergency Services and First Responders (Naval Institute Press). She also served as a board member and Senior Fellow at the Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics at Duke University.
Levine is the founder of the Climb High Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of jobless women in western Uganda by training them to be trekking guides and porters in their local mountains, thus allowing them to earn a sustainable living wage through climbing-related tourism. Prior to her work in Uganda, women’s only avenue to earn money in this area of the country was through prostitution. Her efforts enabled the very first group of local women to climb Uganda’s highest peak—Mt Stanley. Her work to change the lives of women in Africa is the subject of the PBS documentary Living Courageously.
Levine’s newest role is that of executive producer of the upcoming documentary film The Glass Ceiling (www.theglassceilingmovie.com), which chronicles the life of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa (1961-1993), the first female Sherpa to summit Mt. Everest.
Levine was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018. She holds a BA from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Duke University, where she currently serves on the Board of Visitors. She is the recipient of the 2019 Ellis Island Medal of Honor which recognizes individuals whose accomplishments in their field and inspired service to our nation are cause for celebration. The Medal has been officially recognized by both Houses of Congress as one of our nation’s most prestigious awards and is annually memorialized in the Congressional Record.
A sought-after consultant and keynote speaker on the subject of leadership development, Levine has addressed audiences ranging from Fortune 500 companies to professional sports teams to the prestigious World Economic Forum at Davos. She is the author of the New York Times best-seller On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Mount Everest and other Extreme Environments. Having spent prolonged periods of time in some of the world’s most dangerous and inhospitable places she tackles the topics of creating cohesive teams, taking responsible risks and developing no-nonsense leaders that can succeed in times of uncertainty.
FUN FACT: Levine’s life story is the inspiration for a craft beer called Conquer the Route Chocolate Stout which is distributed by Bold Missy Brewery and features her likeness on the label.
On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership
Imagine yourself on the highest mountain in the world. You have to deal with the physiological effects of extreme altitude–along with bone-chilling temperatures, battering winds, and a climbing team that’s counting on all of its members to make smart decisions. There’s simply no room for poor judgment — one mistake or misstep can result in an “unrecoverable error.” In any situation where lives on are the line or the stakes are exceptionally high–there’s no better training ground for leaders than settings where people are pushed beyond their perceived limits. Drawing on her experience as team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, Alison Levine makes a compelling case that the leadership principles that apply in the world of extreme adventure also apply to today’s rigorously competitive business environments.