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The principle of self exclusion
On January 20, 2010, in Leadership principles, by Neculai Fantanaru

When a leader is undecided, his indecision will cause his own exclusion from the race.

An undecided person isn't fated to achieve excellence in leadership so easily. An exaltation, an impulse can blow the person up, like a rocket, beyond his own limits, but if he's not meant to reach the top of the pyramid and to settle himself to that particular level, if he lacks strong character features, such as self-confidence, volition or will, then his attempts will turn out to be, beyond doubt, doomed.

I realized this truth, that there are some who aren't meant to succeed in their attempts because of their indecision, after having watched the movie “Vertical limit (2000)”. If you are going to watch it yourself, I'm sure you'll agree with me.

Tom McClaren, an exceptional alpinist, is appointed to lead an expedition on the K2 Mountain of the Himalayas. He has a great responsibility: he must lead the billionaire Elliot Vaughn and Annie, a famous alpinist, to the peak. At first, the weather was wonderful, the sun rose bright and shining, there was little wind. At a given point, Tom is contacted by the ground base and warned about the change of weather. He thinks, for a moment, to abandon his mission. But because there was a chance of 70% for the wind to change its direction and, especially, because of Annie's and Elliot's insistences, he decides to carry on climbing.

"You were the leader, Tom"

When they reach 7800 meters, Tom is once again contacted by the ground base, but this time he's announced of a strong storm getting close to them and he's asked to immediately abandon the climb and go back. Tom seems to forebode a great catastrophe. But he hesitates to take a firm decision. Elliot challenges him to carry on with the climb; otherwise he would fall into contempt and would live his entire life ashamed. And Tom, being obedient, submitted to him.

The three carried on together with their journey. As expected, the storm rises and they get caught in a cave covered by an avalanche. Tom is severely wounded. After only a few hours, he falls ill, as Annie herself, because of pulmonary edema. with pulmonary edema. His only chance to survive was to inject himself dextrose. But there weren't enough shots. And Elliot knew that it wouldn't take much longer for him to fall ill, as well.

The following scene is memorable. Tom makes Elliot responsible for everything that has happened: “We wouldn't be here if it weren't for you”. And then Elliot reminds him: “You were the leader, Tom”.

In the end, Tom is killed by Elliot, the man who suggested to carry on climbing, but whom he should have never had to listen to.

Failure at high altitude

Let's be honest and admit. Tom lacked in virtues of a leader. He should have lead, and Annie and Elliot should have followed him. Instead, things went backwards. Elliot and Annie, but especially Elliot, lead him in their direction and finally, unfortunately, towards death.

Actually, Tom's main mistake was indecision. He hesitated when he should have taken a firm attitude. Instead of listening to his instinct, instead of imposing his authority as a leader, he followed Elliot. And when a leader is undecided, his hesitation will cause his own exclusion from the race. This is what I called “The principle of self-exclusion”.

Tom succeeded in sabotaging himself through his hesitation and indecision. As a leader, he was authorized and had the responsibility to lead Annie and Elliot to the top, to give them absolute confidence by guarding them against danger. He should have had the final word, he should have decided if they could carry on the journey or not, he should have decided the change. Only he was the one authorized to influence upon the ascent. But Tom didn't take his role seriously. He was indulgent, obeyed others and it didn't worth the while. He alone, through his hesitating and fragile attitude, through his feeling of shame and guilt, excluded himself from the race. Unfortunately, the weak and temperamental ones will always pay full price.

The vision, the delegation of authority or the charisma, remain only some interesting qualities. Many a time, they can do the trick, but the attitude is the one establishing the leader's tone. The one with a hesitating attitude, the one who lets himself being pushed around and being lead by whosoever, and who has the taste for persisting in this situation, cannot call himself a leader but rather a puppet. And puppets disappear quickly from the stage of life.

Becoming the leader of a group requires having obligations towards that particular group. And, as understood, decisional rights inside the group. At its turn, the group is dependent on the leader. Any kind of insubordination rising from the group must be sanctioned, because, otherwise, the leader can't fulfill his mission.

The lack of determination of the leader, his hesitating attitude, the decisional incapacity and the subordination to individual interests made against those coincident with the group, will lead him to his demise from this position, so to his exclusion because of his own faults or weaknesses.

 

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