Monday, February 10, 2014

Teamwork and Emotions - Herzog vs. Blum

While reading A Woman’s Place, I couldn’t help but compare Blum’s narrative to Herzog’s account of Annapurna almost 30 years earlier. Under Herzog’s leadership, the expedition ‘conquers’ Annapurna as if they were on a military siege. Herzog and his team were climbing on behalf of all of France and his description of the trip is short and to the point. Herzog’s depiction of his team are focused on specific mountaineering skills that they brought to the table. 
On the other hand, Blum’s account of Annapurna stresses each individual’s strength and weakness (physically and mentally) and focuses on the team component of mountaineering. She emphasizes the importance of discussion and group spirit on an expedition of this scale – “the higher we go, the more sensitive we become to our own feelings and the less sensitive to other people’s” [107]. Blum’s discussions of the team dynamic, inclusion of member’s journal entries, and emphasis on emotions make the expedition team more personable.

In addition, Blum’s role as a leader differs from Herzog’s – the other members want to contribute to decision-making but at the same time Blum must remain a strong decisive leader to ensure the safety of her team. However, at the end of the day Blum realizes that regardless of what she wants her team to do, when it comes to life or death risks “they had to make this decision for themselves” [124].


  1. I think that part of Blum's realization that each member of the expedition "had to make this decision for themselves" has to do with her realization that each member feels differently about the summit. For example, we know that Liz values her job as a teach more than the summit, we know the Piro values her career as a surgeon more than the summit and we know that various other expedition members have reservations about the summit.

    I think that by the end of the expedition Blum has realized that she can trust the individual members of the expedition to make the right decisions with regard to the summit and safety. Although clearly in the case of Alison and Vera, she trusted them too much.

  2. Blum rests a lot of trust in her team members - but doesn't Herzog do the same? He just takes on a bit of stricter role in terms of siphoning out roles each person should take on over the course of the adventure. I found it interesting how much trust Blum places in those on her team, and how little Herzog does until the end of the adventure, when he puts his life in others' hands. Thus, I am grappling with the question we pursued bit in class - what makes a good leader? And how, if there is any way, can we determine who is a "good" leader and who is not? If both teams are successful in reaching the summit, are they not both, then, good leaders? Or does the fact that Blum lost 2 members of her team and Herzog lost his fingers and toes put a damper on their successes?