Into Thin Air Analysis

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What Shakespeare might call the fatal flaw of Fischer’s expedition seemed to be a collective lack of humility amongst his team, stemming of course from the top with Fischer himself, the “face” of the organization. Fischer was an ambitious man who was desperate to earn the respect of his peers, and came across as nothing short of overconfident when he was quoted in Krakauer's Into Thin Air as saying, "Experience is overrated. […] We've got the big E figured out, we've got it totally wired. […] (W)e've built a yellow brick road to the summit." (pp. 85-86) Even Fischer's experienced guide, Anatoli Boukreev, was not immune from pride, opting to make the climb without the use of supplemental oxygen, a decision that was not only completely unnecessary, but arguably ended up costing the lives of members of his team at the summit. Indeed, as Krakauer noted, there was a palpable lack of a team dynamic, a result of the Attraction-Selection-Attrition Theory; the team felt more like a bunch of individuals, all "in it for himself or herself." (Krakauer, p. 213) In a life or death situation, having a strong team dynamic is more important than ever. But Fischer was more interested in the parts, than the whole. As part of Fischer's ambition, he had made an effort to recruit high-profile clients, including a New York socialite who wrote for Allure magazine, and Krakauer himself, who could lend the expedition some heavy publicity, but brought very little by way of experience when it came to summiting a mountain as extreme as Everest. Teams were composed of a leader, two guides, the eight clients, a lead Sherpa, and seven climbing Sherpas. Corporations are increasingly trading in their typical hierarchical dynamic for a team-oriented one, as th... ... middle of paper ... ...eader, Fischer failed to protect one of the most precious resources of his organization: energy - more specifically, in this instance, his own energy. He should have delegated these duties to others, spreading the burden amongst many, instead of assuming responsibility for all of it. In essence, Fischer was performing more of a managerial role than one of leadership. Given the recent Everest tragedy over the weekend with the biggest loss of lives to date, this case study rings particularly poignant. It’s hard to think of a higher-staked situation than making a summit bid for Mount Everest. The responsibility in such a trek weighs heavy on the leader, but does not need to fall on his shoulders alone. Had Fischer been more willing to share credit, fostering a team-oriented environment, he might still be around today to bask in the glory of his ambitious undertaking.
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