A Challenger of Heights Inside and Out

A leading Romanian high altitude climber, Alex Găvan believes in aiming for excellence through honest performance, while holding performance accountable at all times. He feels that "mountains are not to be climbed with ice tools and crampons only, which we all can have; but above everything else, with humbleness". To Alex "Climbing mountains Outside is climbing mountains Inside".

By the age of 32 he reached six 8000m summits in the Himalayas. To this day Alex Găvan is the youngest Romanian who climbed an eight-thousander (Cho Oyu, in 2006) when he was only 24. Promoter of climbing the mountains "by fair means", Alex does not use in his ascents supplemental oxygen and high-altitude porters. A daring athlete, he understands not just that pushing your boundaries when life tests your limits is the very fabric of performance, but also that the authentic performance can only be reached in the absence of arrogance.

Alex transforms each experience in sources of inspiration and motivation for leadership, vision, strategy, and tactics through powerful speeches. Over 25,000 people from all walks of life have attended his speeches - from CEOs, senior executives, and decision makers, to students and youngsters.


Because he embodies the spirit of flawless performance we all aspire to experience at least once. He trusts the transformational power that good thoughts and deeds set free in all of us.


  • Three of the six peaks climbed by Alex were First Romanian Ascents: Shisha Pangma (8027m) in 2013; Makalu (8463m) in 2008; and Gasherbrum I (8068m) in 2007
  • Broad Peak (8047m) in 2014; Manaslu (8156m) in 2011; and Cho Oyu (8201m) in 2006 were second Romanian ascents
  • Recipient of the 2008 "Gold Medal for Merit in Sport" (Spain)
  • Awarded twice "The Romanian Sportsman of the Year in High Altitude Climbing" by the Romanian Federation of Mountaineering and Sport Climbing
  • Nominated for "The Romanian Sportsman of the Year in High Altitude Climbing" twice
  • He is a WWF Romania Ambassador since 2011.


Alex will share precious insights about how climbing mountains enables us to know ourselves through exploring our physical limits and our emotional, mental and spiritual horizons. He will bring to the table a Romanian experience of responsible leadership and extreme risk management, and the lessons learned in his pursuit of excellence.

Alex Găvan

  • 1. What was your first job?

    I've never had a job, because I've never looked at it like that. My job is my life and my life is my job. Otherwise, I started working when volunteering in high school for the local mountain rescue team, as well as for a NGO I helped founding. I feel completely 'at the office' while climbing above 7000m altitude.

  • 2. Looking back, is there something that you would change regarding the past? What did you keep from that experience and what did you chose to change?

    The past is already in the past and can't be changed. Lamenting over it only prevents you from living the present. What matters is learning from past experiences. Usually, when I make a decision (especially in the high mountains), I consider it as being the proper one at that moment, not necessarily the best, based on the context and the information I have. Thinking in terms of 'what if' (I'd have continued towards the summit instead of turning back at 8000m due to an imminent avalanche danger, for instance) would only cause frustration.

  • 3. What was your first business idea?

    The greatest "business idea" I've ever had was to realize that my business was actually my life - discovering, developing and working towards fulfilling my potential. It's still a work in progress and it will always be, no matter the achievements. Getting drunk with the "status quo" is taking you only downwards.

  • 4. Tell us about the people who influenced your career decisions and how/why.

    I've never really had role models or mentors, only people I hugely admire and who inspire me. They are not only climbers. Some are famous, others completely unknown. There is this danger of unconsciously starting to imitate your role model or mentor and losing yourself on the way. I think the contact with such people, directly by knowing them personally, or through a book they wrote, a work of art they created or a visionary climbing route they established, can empower you to discover/find/create your very own path. In a way, paradoxically maybe, to find your own path is to create your own path while being aware of what your heart is telling you. Sometimes it is only a whisper and you should pay attention, sometimes it is a clear statement. This guide is always there. But it takes courage to take the responsibility and follow your inner compass because getting in line with 'your true North' is not a given, and the journey involves plenty of challenges and most of the times a new mindset.

  • 5. Have you experienced a life/perspective changing situation? Please share the context and impact?

    On March 30, 2013, I succeeded the First Romanian Ascent of Shishapangma (8027m), in Tibet. As in all my expeditions, I climbed without supplemental oxygen or high altitude porters. On the way down I couldn't find my way back safely through a snowstorm, and had to spend the night out in the open at almost 8000m, without any bivouac gear. It was the first time in my life when it crossed my mind that I might not make it through the night. At a point I've even had an imaginary companion, a Frenchman. For me, he was as real as myself. All I was thinking back then was that I have to stay alive in order to take care of the Frenchman. There are not so many stories of survival at such a high altitude and in such conditions. Everything I did to stay alive was directly related to my ability to 'live in the now' and an increased awareness of myself. The full story of that night is on my blog.(*)

  • 6. What does "leadership" mean to you? Do you think that people can learn how to be authentic leaders, or is leadership a gift that you are born with?

    The most intimate view on leadership that I resonate with and share is one I heard from the Romanian actress Oana Pellea: "A leader is the one who sparks the flame in the others". I don't think you are born a leader. Certainly you may genetically inherit some qualities. The values your parents taught you, how you grew up, the context and the social environment contribute to that too. But ultimately I think a leader is made, shaped by the visions and ideas she/he aspires to.

  • 7. Which are your top five business values?

    Not top, but some of them: authenticity, sustainability, top performance, meritocracy, fair play, innovation, team work.

  • 8. What is the one thing that can ruin or bring up a business?

    Doing good for the others. Not for the selling, but because you really care.

  • 9. How would you describe the European business landscape (pros and cons)?
    How about the Romanian market, any predictions for the following years?

    With all warning signals the planet is desperately sending us, we haven't woken up to a sustainable life. For example, by August 19, according to a recent WWF report, the population of the Earth has already consumed the resources the planet generates for an entire year. We are using more than we have, more than nature can generate, so for the rest of 2014 everything we consume is on the 'debit' side of the balance. We need a radical mindset change about the planet, including in the business world. Both in Europe and Romania, the political will for effective environmental standards and actions is still very weak. The whole system is rotten and thinking only to get bigger profits is deceiving in the long run. There are plenty of MBA schools, but so few sustainable doers in the end. The business of the future should be boycotted by consumers if it doesn't do everything possible to be green. True business leaders should set examples of best practices and, along with the civil society, should pressure the governments to act accordingly.

  • 10. How does the business model of the future look like?

    There are no magic recipes for success. All business models should take into consideration their ecological impact. Making a profit should never occur at the expense of the planet. We must think on what kind of planet our children will live on. What our legacy will be to them?

  • 11. What are the first three things you value about people?

    I avoid making rankings, so some relevant to me are: authenticity, the drive to learn everyday something new and to overcome oneself, generosity, empathy, modesty.

  • 12. What is a true brand?

    You have a true brand when you really are what you preach. And you have a positive impact among people. And all you do has sustainability as top priority.

  • 13. Can brands have "hearts"?

    A brand without a "heart" is not a true brand. It cannot be authentic. Authenticity comes from the heart.

  • 14. What do you thing about the Enlightening leadership conference concept?

    No conference can give you anything, no matter who the speakers are. You are the one who ultimately takes or not something out of this experience. I am sure the Enlightening Conference will be a great learning experience for me! Till then, "Tashi delek'', as Tibetans greet: "Happiness and peace!"

  • alexgavan.ro
    Alex Găvan

    Full Shishapangma story here

Don’t miss your seat, book now
Our Partners

Interested in sponsoring Business Odyssey? / Email our sales team or call +40 21 411 44 20

  • Orange
  • expo_media
  • Competence call center
  • Mystery shopping agency
  • adhugger
  • Stejarii Country Club
  • Swiss
  • Saveur
  • Aspen Institute Romania
  • iab-romania
  • oma-vision
  • customer_service_school
  • Digi 24
  • ccifer
  • active life
  • iqads
  • adhugger
  • smark
  • smartatletic
  • Adrenallina
  • prwave
  • burda-international
  • 9am
  • cariereonline
  • forbes romania