Everest: When leadership fails

Competing for the spotlight is a roadmap to disaster. This case study helps us recognise marginal losses and declining performance and what to do about it?

What if you made better decisions when things go wrong?

Decision making is a habit you can become great at. It starts with losing the habit that makes you think you’re right all the time. It’s about losing the blind spot bias and being wary of over-confidence in high-risk situations.

In 1996, a disaster of epic proportions took place on Everest… along with an intriguing cast of characters, and rivalry between two expedition leaders competing for the spotlight, recognition and reward in a race for glory to summit Everest.

Track the journey of ill-equipped, oxygen-deprived climbers and leaders, who lose their way and fail spectacularly as they push past the point of no return.

The summits and descents of high performance

By May 1996 there were 30 expeditions on the mountain. The world’s top expedition leaders, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, led the pack with international journalists on their team, guides, Sherpas and high-paying clients. Notably the rivalry, competition, spotlight and pressure to succeed was so intense it culminated in one of Everest’s biggest disasters – the greatest loss of life in a single day in the history of the mountain at that time. Hall and Fischer didn’t make it back alive. Another climber was left for dead three times but lived to tell the tale.

We view the 1996 Everest Disaster as the antithesis of a high-performance recipe. We delve into the flaws and fatal mistakes made on the mountain: lack of individual mastery, little collaboration, teamwork, leadership and readiness to perform, and we identify a powerful framework of what not to do if you want to continue to perform in tough and challenging times.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary

Ignite team and leadership conversations

  • What causes leaders to lose their way and fail spectacularly?
  • How can buying into your own success lead you down the path of decline?
  • How can grappling with problems, mistakes and weaknesses improve our decision-making abilities?
  • How will we recognise marginal losses and declining performance? And what will we do about it?

Format and Approach

Engage your teams in a multimedia, facilitator-led conversation on Zoom, supported with interactive moderated conversations in breakout rooms (hosted by our team of Pod Coaches).


This case study is available in a 90-minute or 180-minute online (Zoom) format.

How does it work?

  • Contact us to let us know that you want LRMG to share this case study with your team
  • We will work with you to design or customise key conversation and reflection questions
  • Participants will get a link to a pre-case study primer to complete prior to the presentation and conversation
  • Your team will receive our Back to Base Camp! Toolkit as a take-away to ignite further learning and reflection

“I felt disconnected from the climbers around me – emotionally, spiritually, physically. We were a team in name only, I’d sadly come to realise.” – Jon Krakauer

Are you interested in moving your people?

Fill in the form below and we will give you access to this exciting resource

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Fill in the form below and we will give you access to this exciting resource

Fill in the form below and we will give you access to this exciting resource.

Fill in the form below and we will give you access to this exciting resource

Fill in the form below and we will give you access to this exciting resource

Fill in the form below and we will give you access to this exciting resource

Fill in the form below and we will give you access to this exciting resource

Fill in the form below and we will give you access to this exciting resource


Career Dreams

Fast track career growth in the new world of work:

Certified learning paths that build relevant skills and competencies

Invigorate your skills development offering:

University-certified online and blended short learning courses

Rapidly improve your scorecard metrics:

B-BBEE (South Africa) and other scorecard solutions

Trusted certification:

Digitally enabled learning solutions supported by dedicated teams of Wits, Queen's University Belfast, UFS and GIBS academics and experience managers

Real-world scarce skills training for youth:

Find, recruit and custom train youth to your demand-led specs, getting them work-ready and employable


We find the talent, match personalities and abilities to your culture fit, and then train them to meet your digital skills needs

Comply with your B-BBEE, transformation and skills levy agenda:

Rapidly improve your scorecard metrics: create a talent pipeline for 4IR, ICT and Tech-future Skills

Work-ready graduates and interns:

We find the candidates (or you find them). We train them to use your technology and digital systems within the defined roles


Sales and Unlock Customer Value

Discover why your customers buy what they buy:

Learn to meet customers’ social, emotional and functional requirements

Activate and strengthen sales team engagement:

Digital sales activation challenges

Cultivate a performance-based sales culture:

Sales leadership and culture solutions

Mobilise the right sales strategy:

Sales strategy validation and optimisation

Accelerate sales pipelines and spark growth:

Customer-centric sales strategy

Grow and sustain critical sales capabilities:

Digital learning content for Sales


People Productivity

Engage for sustainable high performance:

Human capital strategy, learning strategy and transformation

Future-fit your organisation for success:

Learning and talent assessments, talent management and people balance sheet planning

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Onboarding, talent development and learning mapped to your individual and company needs

Move the needle on learning experiences:

Smart learning and talent experience platforms, tools and digital learning assets

Upskill people with new digital smarts:

Digital learning content (customised or plug-and-play)


A Performance Culture

Talent management:

Make better future-fit data-driven decisions for your talent and organisation

Strategy and change:

Inspire your people to change and ignite their passion to deliver business results

Leadership and culture:

Enable your leadership teams to create their unique brand and to build new high-performance habits and behaviours

Digital transformation:

Enable people processes through digital technologies that transform performance

Talent assessments:

Better understand your people's strengths and your team’s productive habits to compete and win

Performance enablement:

Create a culture of feedback that actively measures performance


Leadership Perspectives

Establish a high-performance culture:

Interactive multimedia inspirational stories

Unlock new thinking and shift mindsets:

More than 13 intriguing true stories of high performance

Empower leaders and teams:

Expertly facilitated moderated conversations

Build new habits for high performance:

Smart toolboxes to activate habits for success