Table of Contents

Extreme Leadership

Extreme Leadership

Leaders, Teams and Situations Outside the Norm

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Edited by Cristina M. Giannantonio and Amy E. Hurley-Hanson

Much has been written about how leaders and teams function in traditional business settings, but there is comparatively scant literature on the behaviors of leaders and teams facing extreme situations: that is, situations that fall outside the scope of daily experience. This book presents cases drawn from a diverse set of non-traditional and extreme leadership scenarios, offering a fresh perspective on both leadership research and management practice.

Chapter 6: Leadership at the edge of the summit

Betty S. Coffey and Stella E. Anderson

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


In 2006 a four-person team attempting to summit Mount Everest encountered another climber in need of rescue. The story of this Mount Everest climb-turned-rescue garnered international attention that focused on the team’s decision to abandon their summit attempt in order to help the stranded climber. This particular case provides a powerful example of leadership and team dynamics in extreme conditions. In this chapter, we explore the context of the mission to summit-turned-rescue utilizing a framework for examining leadership in extreme situations (Hannah et al., 2009). The situation is extreme in every sense of the word. Climbing teams on Mount Everest face a harsh environment where physical and psychological challenges are exacerbated in the life-threatening conditions. This specific climbing team made decisions of extreme consequence in that helping the stranded climber meant abandoning the mission to the summit despite significant personal commitment and investment.THE CLIMBHigh-altitude mountaineering is a risky undertaking even under the best conditions. Mount Everest, part of the Himalayan mountain range, is the world’s highest peak with an elevation of 29029 feet. Mountaineers often refer to high altitudes above 26246 feet (8000 meters) as the ‘Death Zone’, aptly named because the human body will begin to significantly deteriorate with prolonged exposure at this high altitude (Tempest et al., 2007). The extreme cold, strong winds and icy conditions often create life-threatening conditions for climbers.

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