Summary: 'High Altitude Leadership'
Review: High Altitude Leadership
By Rolf Dobelli, Chairman, getAbstract
Chris Warner certainly is not the first mountain climber to chronicle harrowing journeys and near-death experiences scaling the high peaks of the Himalayas. What makes Warner unique is his ability to extract critical lessons from his adventures and shape them to be relevant for business leaders at sea level.
Warner and Don Schmincke have produced a fascinating book that pinpoints the qualities managers need to not just survive, but thrive. Bravery, teamwork and decisiveness, they say, are just as important in the conference room as on the Khumbu Ice Fall of Mt. Everest. getAbstract recommends the authors' sage advice. You'll find yourself on solid footing as you negotiate the higher elevations of leadership.
What do a mountain climber leading an expedition in the Himalayas and a corporate leader managing a company have in common? Although circumstances at 26,000 feet (7,900 meters) clearly are different than those in the office, both leaders frequently face dire situations. You need the same attributes for conquering impossibly difficult peaks that you need for maneuvering organizations through a maze of business challenges.
The qualities that allow individuals to reach the summit of Mt. Everest also enable business leaders to perform at high levels. Like mountain climbers in the Death Zone, executives and managers must make instinctive, critical decisions that will avert danger or trigger an avalanche. Their businesses may be struggling to survive, placing the workforce in a "life-or-death" situation. Meeting the demands of "high altitude leadership" is a huge challenge that requires understanding the eight greatest dangers managers face. How you respond determines whether you succeed or fail.
"Danger No. 1: Fear of Death"
Author Chris Warner was on a particularly difficult expedition on K2, the world's second highest summit, when one of the mountaineers, Nima, fell and died. The other climbers were petrified. Forcing himself to think clearly, Chris snapped himself into action, "Listen, if you didn't think this would happen, you're delusional. Are you going to let this stop you?" He paid his respect to Nima and offered condolences to his friends - then pushed further. "We...had to accept the possibility of our death if we were to continue. If we didn't accept what we always knew was a possibility, we would fail. Soon most of us are heading upward."
Fear is a powerful and paralyzing emotion, but mountaineers cannot climb high peaks without facing their fears. Neither can the leaders in a boardroom. Many individuals are simply too scared to make the right decisions. For example, an executive can sabotage an organization by failing to fire an incompetent salesperson because he or she has been with the company for 25 years.
Executives rarely face life-and-death situations, but "metaphorical death" can be an equally powerful experience. The devastating effects of a corporate bankruptcy, for instance, are less severe if the company forges ahead and seeks new ways to build a viable business.
Beyond just accepting fear, actively look for it. Good managers and organizations understand the importance of pushing the envelope. Growth isn't possible if you don't venture into the unknown, confront your fears and accept the possibility of failure. Climb higher; don't be scared to take chances...
March 29, 2010; 10:32 AM ET |
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