Monday, February 10, 2014

Blum's Leadership

"Arlene (Camp II): I'd rather you wouldn't go up there without Sherpa support. You've done a great job already, and you can come down now. The gear at Camp V isn't that important - it can be left there" (223).

This was a passage of Arlene speaking to Vera W, the last radio communication the two had. Vera insisted on proceeding to Camp V. From there, Vera and Alison would assess the conditions and worse case, they would return with the expense gear.

I am very intrigued by Arlene's leadership style. Self-notedly, Arlene didn't want to be dictatorial. She wanted to appease the people in her group. I don't think this facet of Arlene's leadership was solely motivated by a desire to be liked, rather, I think she genuinely wanted the people she cared about - and the people who had worked so hard for all these months and years - to find what they came for on Annapurna.

Is she a bad leader because she didn't stomp her feet up to Camp V and insist Vera and Alison go no further? I don't think so. I respect Arlene's ability to stand back and give autonomy to the individual. That being said, I think those individuals ought to have acted more selflessly, and perhaps, as a leader, Arlene could've done more to inspire that team mentality.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. I felt that Blum struggled with what kind of leader she wanted to be throughout the book before settling into a balance between total authority and democracy. I felt that she made the right choice by giving Alison and Vera the best advice she could, rather than outright commands. And in fact, she continued to reiterate to them that she thought that climbing by themselves was a bad idea. I don't think she should feel too much remorse for what happened.

    I also don't think she could have done more to inspire a team mentality than she already did. By the end of the climb, everyone knew that by placing the first summit team on the top they all had achieved victory. That is a very team-like mindset. However, in my opinion, Vera and Alison were the two most stubborn and opinionated climbers of the whole group. They both seemed to fight with Blum most of the way up the mountain, or at least give their blunt opinion. Vera and Alison both very much wanted to achieve something for themselves as well as for the group. That kind of mindset is hard to reason with and I think that in the moment, Blum made the best choice she could, because I doubt that even ordering those two women to come down would have dissuaded them from their attempt. Everything looks different in hindsight, but I feel that Blum did the best she could in the moment.