Everest: When leadership fails

Marginal losses and declining performance… what will you 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

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