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Push through the ‘death zone’ to the top

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Parallels between climbing a mountain and leading your organization to the top abound. Here’s one: Before you reach the summit, you have to pass through an intensely competitive “death zone.”

Pick one of these two strategies:

A prudent “siege” ascent. A large number of climbers lug ample supplies up the mountain, distributing them among ever-higher camps to support the lead climbing party.

An aggressive “alpine” style. With limited supplies and backup, a small number of climbers advance quickly. They can take advantage of sudden periods of good weather and reach the top faster than “siege” climbers … if bad luck doesn’t strike. But the risk is far greater.

Leadership advice: With today’s emphasis on speed, it’s tempting to overlook risks and move quickly, like an alpine team. Apply these tools to reduce risk to acceptable levels:
  • Use state-of-the-art research and information.
  • Know inflexible decision-making protocols. Unless such rules are understood and applied strictly, risk increases logarithmically.

— Adapted from Upward Bound: Nine Original Accounts of How Business Leaders Reached Their Summits, Jerry Useem, Crown.

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