The Risks of Climbing to the Top

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When you set out to go mountain climbing, as in business, there are a number of factors that increase your chances of success, but if not can cause a fall. 

  • Knowledge – past experience, having all the right equipment packed, planning your route, practicing the more difficult traverses ahead of time. 
  • Teamwork – having the right team with you, knowing everyones strengths (and weaknesses), understanding you do not have all the answers. 
  • Realism – not living in the clouds thinking whatever happens that it's all going to be great. Having dreams yes, but ensuring your feet are set firmly in reality so that you make clear headed decisions. 

This past weekend's deaths of four climbers on Mount Everest, highlight the continual human drive to achieve the ultimate pinnacle. People with the drive to fulfil lifelong dreams and goals, willing to pay the ultimate price. Without knowing all the details and what they faced you do wonder if they stuck to those three principles. 

Recently we have seen some examples of this where senior business leaders have not and it has proved or may prove to be their undoing. 

Scott Thomson, the former CEO of Yahoo, fired for lying on his resume. He appeared to be a highly qualified leader. His knowledge seemed to be a good fit for the difficult task of turning Yahoo around. But when your experience is brought in to question peoples confidence fast disappears and they start to question other decisions you make. 

Irvin Goldman is the Chief Investment Officer at JP Morgan who had been fired for 'gamble' losses by another firm a few years ago and JP Morgan were aware of this. Now the firm faces at least $2 billion (or much more) in losses due to risky trades by one of Goldman's London trading team. 

Gene Morphis was the CFO of publicly quoted fashion company Francesca Holdings. His role as the main financial voice for the company meant he had access to the most sensitive of information. His regular complaints about his work and bosses expectations through tweets on Twitter and updates on Facebook were at best unwise. His perceived lack of reality cost him his job.

Each of these individuals leadership has certainly been questionable and damaging to their company's and themselves.

There is a deeper indication of poor leadership from their own leaders too though. The board at Yahoo knew of this resume error earlier, Jamie Dimon CEO at JP Morgan bank was an outspoken critic of government attempts to reign in bank trading and Francesca Holdings knew of these social media outbursts long ago but set no formal company policy. 

You must be aware of how your personal brand leadership is being perceived. It's not a case of do what I say but don't do what I do. Leadership has a big responsibility attached to it, and when you compromise that in any way the results can affect many more people than just you. 

There was a good article in the Washington Post on this Learn to Manage Your Personal Leadership Image

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