Byron's Babbles

Mount Everest Leadership (Part 2)

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 26, 2013


Thomas Carlyle had it right: All history is a biography – as so all great companies and organizations, including schools, are indeed the direct reflection of their leaders. The leader sets the tone, the mood, the style, and the character of the whole enterprise.

Restrained Leadership

In part one of this post I spoke of the tragedy of Hall and Fisher, but to me the greatest story on leadership is from accomplished climber David Breashears, the leader of the IMAX film crew in 1996. While everyone else was headed for the summit, he sought the advice his team. The conditions did not feel right to him. His team concurred and they turned their team around and headed back to base camp. They all recalled questioning their decision when meeting the other teams on their way up while they were retreating.

Breashears argued that experience, formal authority, or expertise in one’s field do not make someone a great leader. Sometimes it is just as important to practice restraint when making decisions. I can really relate to this as a leader of a turnaround academy. There are so many resources and “the next great program,” coming at me that sometimes I have to say, “No, we are sticking to what we know works best for learning.” Additionally, we must also be able to accept others’ ideas without being threatened.

“If you assemble a great team, don’t you want to hear their ideas?” ~ David Breashears

Wow, what a statement by a great leader! While speaking at Harvard University, Breashears stated: “Some people have tremendous charisma, and they can dominate a room full of people, but all of that does not equal competence. Sure, leaders need to have a vision. But by restraint I mean the ability to accept others’ ideas without feeling threatened. Those are the people I found to be my role models – not the person who ordered me to go up the mountain, but the person who talked to the team, asking for a dialogue, not feeling threatened by the dialogue, because they still had the ability to make the final decision. Some people can tolerate no dissent. But, if you assemble a great team, don’t you want to hear their ideas” (Roberts, 2011, p. 24). Breashears is a Mount Everest size leader!

I practice this with all decisions. Pulling in all the team members that are appropriate to the decision has become standard operating procedure for me. Some have criticized, saying I can’t make a decision. Ultimately, however, I do make the decision and accept responsibility for the outcome. We have assembled a great team at our school, and guess what? I want their dialogue, dissent, and ideas!


Roberts, M.A. (2011). Leading with restraint. FTPress Delivers: Upper Saddle River, NJ.

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  1. Are You A Sherpa? | Byron's Babbles said, on August 4, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    […] I have actually posted about this before. Click here to read Mount Everest Leadership (Part 1) or here to read Mount Everest Leadership (Part 2). Out of this case study session last week two themes […]


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