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11.21.08

8 Dangers Every Leader Must Face and Overcome

K2
Above 26,000 feet life takes on a whole new meaning. It’s known as the death zone. At this height, the air holds only 30 % as much oxygen as at sea level. The air is so thin it is not life-sustaining. Within hours, judgment can become impaired. People get confused. Issues, that at sea level, we feel we can choose not to deal with, become deadly. At this height, the importance of character becomes black and white. Leadership mistakes are fatal.

Don Schmincke writes, "here, climbers resemble corporate professionals. They live passionately while confronting impossible odds. Some are deeply humble while others are psychotic narcissists. They come with all levels of competence; from naive wannabes to elite athletes. And when put to the test, climbers react like professionals: sometimes heroically, other times self-destructively."

Don Schmincke chose this environment to answer the question, when it comes to job, career, or personal success, why do some professionals excel while others flounder even with the same methods? To study those who lead teams in the riskiest and most extremely challenging situations encountered in death zone environments, he tuned to mountaineering expedition leader and founder of Earth Treks, Chris Warner.

In High Altitude Leadership, Don Schmincke and Chris Warner offer lessons from the death zone that any leader can use to achieve something much higher than they currently feel possible. Where people can die or business can fail, high altitude leadership—people who produce peak performance in the face of extreme challenges—is needed.
High Altitude Leadership
Leadership is a sweet delusion: so fragile, so easily sabotaged. Whether on a mountain or at work, leading others can quickly become difficult and dangerous. You want badly to influence positive change in your organization. You accept the title of leadership and purposefully trek upward, propelled by hope. In this exciting journey, you seek to be a great leader leading a great company to great altitudes.

Then you slip off the cliff into reality. Instead of things going your way, leadership becomes a burden as the world fails to cooperate with your dreams. In an instant, the threat of failure awakens you from the delusion. Luckily most of us don’t tumble to our deaths if we stumble. But how you respond in the face of real dangers defines you as a leader.
Schmincke and Warner have identified eight dangers that can sabotage anyone at some point in their journey and put at risk careers, projects, or even companies. Overcoming these dangers requires implementing specific survival tips that are outlined below:

DangerSurvival Tip
Fear of DeathEmbrace death. A metaphor to accept and not resist, avoid, or ignore the inevitable death of a situation. Instead of freezing, free yourself to take action. Some call it “die before battle”.
SelfishnessDevelop a compelling saga, a passion greater than the ego’s agenda. Focus on the greater good than your personal agenda.
Tool Seduction Improve your behavior versus getting seduced by new performance theories or models. Run your tools, don’t let them run you. Getting off on new ideas, but not on implementation, distracts professional focus.
ArroganceHumility. Offensive displays of superiority, self-importance, or treating others as inferiors never engenders success. Achieve success by not stepping over weak climbers, or leaving them for dead.
Lone HeroismPartnership. Instead of feeling you’re the only one who can do it right, avoid missed opportunities and demoralized colleagues by engaging and leveraging everyone’s strengths.
CowardiceBravery. Cowardly professionals don’t challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and expose weaknesses in the organization. Don’t be a coward. Take bold action
ComfortPerseverance. No professional accomplishes a goal worth the pursuit without surviving the stretch—and often painful stretch. How uncomfortable are you willing to be to achieve your goals?
GravityLuck: Did you think any plan would survive its impact with realty? When gravity propels you, you’re invincible. When it pulls you down, you fall hard. Gravity is that uncertain push or pull regardless of what you do. Execution involves too much risk; and this causes expert opinions to fluctuate with the winds of uncertainty. Accept that luck happens, and prepare to seize it when it happens to you!

Here at sea level, these dangers don’t seem to pose a very big threat. But it’s deceptive. We figure we can get by. At sea level the margin for error is greater and the consequences often take longer to be realized. In the end, they will destroy you just the same.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:45 PM
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