Keynote Speaker Stephen Koch

About Keynote Speaker Stephen Koch

When you’re the leader of a team that’s attempting something hard and dangerous, you have a special responsibility. But that doesn’t mean you have to do all the work and hold all the ropes yourself. A leader has to lead.

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Stephen Koch began his career as a pioneering snowboard mountaineer, professional athlete and mountain guide.  With over 50 first ascents and descents on the world’s highest most challenging mountains, he made calculated decisions under conditions of great uncertainty in the face of extreme danger.  Koch generally chose well, but occasionally not.  It is in the “not” where the gold lies.


As a thought leader and keynote speaker, Koch analyzes the world of high-stakes decision-making and failure, sharing the gold that has resulted from tragedy as he connects with audiences.  He inspires organizations and teams through customized presentations with stories and lessons learned from two decades of climbing and snowboarding unprecedented new routes from around the world.


A sampling of Stephen’s insights gleaned from the mountains that have powerful implications for the business world:


Conditions on a mountain can change so fast. That’s why I prefer a style of climbing called single push.  Move fast, travel light, and don’t let anything slow you down. When you’re the leader of a team that’s attempting something really challenging, you have a special responsibility. But that doesn’t mean you have to do all the work and hold all the ropes yourself. A leader has to lead.  The opposite is called micromanaging and it’s death to teamwork. You do, of course, have to have the passion. Everyone knows that, right? That’s what gets you there, to the mountain, in the first place. But two very destructive forces can come with passion – ego, and fear – from pushing too hard to win at any cost. So you have to learn to let go of the ego and the fear and learn to see the mountain for what it is.  You learn just to take the next step, the one in front of you, without all your personal baggage.


In his keynotes, Stephen focuses on decision-making and creative problem solving in the midst of extreme uncertainty — pretty much what executives are facing everyday.  He offers the audience some compelling takeaways in how to think effectively about their options when the pace is fast, the dangers extreme, and need to decide imminent.  He weaves in his own personal story of leading teams into danger in the mountains — and bringing them back safely — over twenty years of adventure and exploration.