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Traffic Jams on Everest

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Sports, Wisdom Leading

Recently, famed mountaineer Conrad Anker said something about Mount Everest that was probably the last thing you would expect to hear about the fabled mountain: it's overcrowded! It turns out that hordes of well-heeled adventure tourists are making their way up the mountain in record numbers, aided by guide companies that will get even marginally qualified climbers to the summit-for the right price. As a result, says, Anker, "If you're going to Everest for that pristine, I'm-in-the-mountains [experience], it's not the place to go." He also points out that climbers have left an unfortunate sign of their passing: tons of garbage, which doesn't biodegrade in the frigid Himalayan temperatures. I find that to be a fascinating metaphor for the way we leave our mark on the environments we enter and how those marks endure, sometimes for years. A leader immersed in the dynamics of a team or organization is like the mountaineer ascending Everest. The environment may appear forbidding and invulnerable (a team made up of veteran salespeople, for example), but beneath the exterior crust, it's surprisingly fragile. Just as oxygen bottles, food containers and medical supplies may remain beneath Everest's ice for decades, careless words or inappropriate anger may leave marks on the psyches of even the toughest professionals. We must always consider what we leave behind when we climb into the rarified air of leadership. What lasting marks are you leaving on your people?

Recently, famed mountaineer Conrad Anker said something about Mount Everest that was probably the last thing you would expect to hear about the fabled mountain: it's overcrowded! It turns out that hordes of well-heeled adventure tourists are making their way up the mountain in record numbers, aided by guide companies that will get even marginally qualified climbers to the summit-for the right price.

As a result, says, Anker, "If you're going to Everest for that pristine, I'm-in-the-mountains [experience], it's not the place to go." He also points out that climbers have left an unfortunate sign of their passing: tons of garbage, which doesn't biodegrade in the frigid Himalayan temperatures. I find that to be a fascinating metaphor for the way we leave our mark on the environments we enter and how those marks endure, sometimes for years.

A leader immersed in the dynamics of a team or organization is like the mountaineer ascending Everest. The environment may appear forbidding and invulnerable (a team made up of veteran salespeople, for example), but beneath the exterior crust, it's surprisingly fragile. Just as oxygen bottles, food containers and medical supplies may remain beneath Everest's ice for decades, careless words or inappropriate anger may leave marks on the psyches of even the toughest professionals.

We must always consider what we leave behind when we climb into the rarified air of leadership.

What lasting marks are you leaving on your people?

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Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams