Wednesday, December 24, 2008

HIGH ALTITUDE LEADERSHIP:  What The World's Most Forbidding Peaks Teach Us About Success
By Chris Warner and Don Schmincke

The timing for this book couldn't be better.  The economy is in the disposal, jobs are being lost at an alarming rate, and we're all learning to do "more with less."  

 Lack of leadership and/or vision or perhaps just plain greed  at major financial institutions and the automobile industry required that we, the taxpayer, bail these organizations out.  I think someone needs to take a hard look at who is leading major organizations and how they are doing it.   Who doesn't remember Enron!

Chris and Don are unlikely co-authors.  As I read their impressive backgrounds, it struck me that Don is the science guy.  He graduated from MIT and Johns Hopkins University with research ranging from simulating timing systems for the navy's nuclear missile systems at Draper Labs, to studying atmospheric effects on satellite frequencies at the Applied Physics Laboratory to automating the Harvard/MIT biomedical laboratory.  He also is head of the SAGA Leadership Institute and he uses anthropology and evolutionary genetics to dispel management myths.  

Chris is the adventurer and mountain climber.  He founded Earth Treks back in 1990.  Earth Treks operates three of the nation's indoor climbing gyms, a rock and ice climbing school and an international mountaineering guide service.  Does it strike anyone else that together these two guys are McGuyver?

I think taking some time to give the background of the two authors is important because of the nature of the mountain climbing analogy used in this fascinating book.  The book shares first-person examples from major mountain climbing expeditions, interspersed with scenarios from boardrooms and business.  There are eight "dangers" that prevent individuals from reaching the highest levels of performance.  

Readers will find this book thrilling because of the illustrated log entries from Chris's most exhilarating expeditions (K2, Everest, and Mount Shivling, to name a few).  The application of these life-and-death situations  to business is well thought out and compelling.

I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it, not as the "next thing" in leadership because that would be buying into "tool seduction" as discussed in the book.  I think the ideas are excellent and food-for-thought for anyone in any kind of leadership position.  What do you think?

hear the interview

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