COMM Research Leadership Seventh Edition Johnson-Hackman 7E.book Page i Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:42 PM Johnson-Hackman 7E.book Page ii Wedn

COMM Research Leadership
Seventh Edition

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Leadership
Seventh Edition

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Leadership
A Communication Perspective

Seventh Edition

Craig E. Johnson
George Fox University

Michael Z. Hackman
late of University of Colorado–Colorado Springs

WAVELAND

PRESS, INC.
Long Grove, Illinois

Johnson-Hackman 7E.book Page iii Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:42 PM

For information about this book, contact:
Waveland Press, Inc.
4180 IL Route 83, Suite 101
Long Grove, IL 60047-9580
(847) 634-0081
info@waveland.com
www.waveland.com

Copyright © 2018, 2013, 2009, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1991 by Waveland Press, Inc.

10-digit ISBN 1-4786-3502-9
13-digit ISBN 978-1-4786-3502-4

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval sys-
tem, or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from
the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America

7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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Mike, this one’s for you.

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About the Authors

Craig E. Johnson (PhD, University of Denver) is emeritus professor of leader-
ship studies at George Fox University, Newberg, Oregon, where he taught a variety
of courses in leadership, ethics, communication, and management at the under-
graduate and doctoral level. During his time at the university he served as chair of
the Department of Communication Arts and founding director of the George Fox
Doctor of Management/Doctor of Business Administration program. Though
retired from full-time teaching, Dr. Johnson continues to serve as an adjunct pro-
fessor. He is author of Organizational Ethics: A Practical Approach (4th ed.) and
Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow (6th ed.). His
articles have appeared in such journals as Communication Quarterly, The Journal
of Leadership Studies, The Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Acad-
emy of Management Learning and Education, The Journal of Leadership Education,
Communication Education, Communication Reports, and International Listening
Association Journal. Johnson has served in leadership roles in several nonprofit
organizations and has participated in educational and service trips to Kenya,
Rwanda, Honduras, Brazil, China, and New Zealand. Professor Johnson is a past
recipient of George Fox University’s distinguished teaching award and 2016 recipi-
ent of the outstanding graduate faculty researcher award. When he is not writing
or teaching, Dr. Johnson enjoys working out, fly fishing, camping, and reading.

Michael Z. Hackman (PhD, University of Denver) was a professor in the
Department of Communication at the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs
and an adjunct at the Center for Creative Leadership. He taught courses in com-
munication, including Foundations of Leadership, Leadership Theory and Practice,
Organizational Leadership, Leadership Communication in a Global Environment,
and Leadership and Organizational Change. In 1995, he was awarded the univer-
sity-wide Outstanding Teacher award. Dr. Hackman’s research focused on a wide
range of issues, including the impact of gender and culture on communication and
leadership behavior, leadership succession, organizational trust, and creativity. His
work appeared in such journals as Communication Education, Communication
Quarterly, The Journal of Leadership Studies, Leadership, The Leadership Review,

Johnson-Hackman 7E.book Page vii Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:42 PM

and the Southern Speech Communication Journal. He was the coauthor (with Craig
Johnson) of Creative Communication: Principles and Applications and (with Pam
Shockley-Zalabak and Sherwyn Morreale) of Building the High-Trust Organiza-
tion. Dr. Hackman served as a visiting professor at the University of Waikato in
Hamilton, New Zealand, on four separate occasions between 1991–2002. He also
served as an adjunct professor at the University of Siena (Italy) and the University
of Vienna (Austria), and lectured at the China Executive Leadership Academy
Pudong in Shanghai and the SP Jain Center of Management in Dubai (UAE).

Johnson-Hackman 7E.book Page viii Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:42 PM

Acknowledgments

The inspiration for this text came while Michael Hackman and I were graduate
students at the University of Denver. We agreed to write a book together but
weren’t sure what topic to write about. Mike called me a couple of years after we
had both graduated to propose a leadership text from a communication vantage
point. That collaboration, which produced the previous six editions, was truly a
labor of love and served to shape our friendship and our careers.

In 2016 Mike died after battling cancer. The world lost an outstanding educa-
tor, scholar, international consultant, professional colleague, friend, and father.
This edition is dedicated to him.

Thanks to all who adopted previous editions. Based on your positive response,
I remain convinced that there is value in examining leadership from a communica-
tion vantage point. To those considering this text for the first time, I hope that it
will prove to be a useful tool for both you and your students.

Over the years many students and colleagues provided their own leadership
stories along with encouragement, advice, and support. In particular I want to rec-
ognize Alvin Goldberg, our mentor at the University of Denver, who was instru-
mental in igniting our interest in the topic of leadership.

Thanks to Carol Rowe at Waveland Press who has been a constant source of
encouragement and inspiration over the years. Laurie Prossnitz prepared this edi-
tion for publication. A number of research assistants from the University of Colo-
rado–Colorado Springs and George Fox University helped with the previous
editions. Linda Crossland assisted in preparing materials for this version. I am
grateful for all of your help. My greatest appreciation, however, is reserved for the
Hackman and Johnson families, who lovingly supported our continuing journey to
explore the latest developments in leadership.

—Craig E. Johnson

Johnson-Hackman 7E.book Page ix Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:42 PM

Contents

Preface xvii

1 Leadership and Communication 1
Leadership: At the Core of Human Experience 2
Defining Leadership 2

The Symbolic Nature of Human Communication 5
The Human Communication Process 8
Leadership: A Special Form of Human Communication 11
Leaders vs. Managers 13
The Question of “Bad” Leadership 14
The Leader/Follower Relationship 19

Viewing Leadership from a Communication Perspective 21
Willingness to Communicate 21
Storytelling as Leadership 25
Emotional Communication Competencies 27
Playing to a Packed House: Leaders as Impression Managers 31

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 34
APPLICATION EXERCISES 35
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: FOSTERING CIRCLES THROUGH STORIES 36
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: THE BEST OF MEN 37

2 Leadership and Followership Communication Styles 39
The Dimensions of Leadership Communication Style 40
Authoritarian, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire Leadership 40
Task and Interpersonal Leadership 46

The Michigan Leadership Studies 49
The Ohio State Leadership Studies 50
McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y 53
Blake and McCanse’s Leadership Grid® 54

ix

x Contents

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Follower Communication Styles 55
Engaged Followers 56
Exemplary Followership 57
The 4-D Followership Model 61
Transcendent Followership 62

Communication Styles, Information Processing,
and Identity 63

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 68
APPLICATION EXERCISES 69
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: THE PERFORMANCE-MAINTENANCE (PM)

THEORY OF LEADERSHIP 70
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA 71

3 Traits, Situational, Functional, Skills, and 73
Relational Leadership
Understanding and Explaining Leadership 74
The Traits Approach to Leadership 75
The Situational Approach to Leadership 81

Path-Goal Theory 81
Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Approach 84

The Functional Approach to Leadership 86
Task-Related Roles 88
Group-Building and Maintenance Roles 89
Individual Roles 89

The Skills Approach to Leadership 90
The Three-Skill Model 91
Task-Based Competencies 92
Problem-Solving Capabilities 93

The Relational Approach to Leadership 94
Vertical Dyad Linkage Model 95
Leader-Member Exchange Theory 95

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 99
APPLICATION EXERCISES 100
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: PATERNALISTIC LEADERSHIP 101
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: CONCUSSION 102

4 Transformational and Charismatic Leadership 105
The Transformational Approach to Leadership 106
The Characteristics of Transformational Leadership 110

Creative 111
Interactive 114
Visionary 117
Empowering 122
Passionate 122

Contents xi

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Perspectives on Charisma 125
The Sociological Approach 126
The Behavioral/Attribution Approach 127
The Communication Approach 130

Transformational and Charismatic Leadership:
Interchangeable or Distinct? 132

Alternative Approaches to Outstanding Leadership 134
Authentic Leadership 134
The CIP (Charismatic/Ideological/Pragmatic)

Leadership Model 137
CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 139
APPLICATION EXERCISES 140
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: IS TRANSFORMATIONAL/CHARISMATIC

LEADERSHIP A UNIVERSAL CONCEPT? 141
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE 142

5 Leadership and Power 145
Power: Mixed Emotions 146
Power and Leadership 146

Interdependent but Not Interchangeable 146
Sources of Power 147

Deciding Which Types of Power to Use 151
Engaging in Constructive Organizational Politics 153
Powerful and Powerless Talk 156
Empowerment 158

Components of the Empowerment Process 162
Empowerment Models 165

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 172
APPLICATION EXERCISES 173
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: A DIFFERENT VIEW ON POWER—

THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONCEPT OF UBUNTU 174
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN:

STAR WARS EPISODE VII—THE FORCE AWAKENS 175

6 Leadership and Influence 177
Credibility: The Key to Successful Influence 178

Dimensions and Challenges of Credibility 179
Building Your Credibility 180

Compliance-Gaining Strategies 184
Managerial Influence Tactics 184
Upward Dissent 187

Developing Argumentative Competence 189

xii Contents

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The Leader as Negotiator 194
Creating a Cooperative Climate 195
Perspective-Taking Skills 197
Negotiation as Joint Problem Solving 199

Resisting Influence: Defending against the Power of
Mental Shortcuts 201

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 207
APPLICATION EXERCISES 208
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: NEGOTIATION IN INDIA 211
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: WOMAN IN GOLD 212

7 Leadership in Groups and Teams 213
Fundamentals of Group Interaction 214

Viewing Groups from a Communication Perspective 214
Group Evolution 216

Emergent Leadership 217
How Not to Emerge as a Leader 217
Useful Strategies 218
Appointed vs. Emergent Leaders 219

Leadership in Meetings 220
Group Decision Making 224

Functions and Formats 224
Avoiding the Pitfalls 228

Team Leadership 232
When Is a Group a Team? 232
Developing Team-Building Skills 235
Project Leadership 237
Leading Virtual Teams 240
Team Coaching 244

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 246
APPLICATION EXERCISES 247
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS:

AMERICAN AND ASIAN STUDENT GROUPS 248
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: THE WAY 249

8 Leadership in Organizations 251
The Leader as Culture Maker 252

Elements of Organizational Culture 252
Shaping Culture 255
Creating a Learning, Trusting Culture 260

The Leader as Strategist 267
The Leader as Sensemaker 271
Intergroup Leadership 277

Contents xiii

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The Power of Expectations: The Pygmalion Effect 278
The Communication of Expectations 281
The Galatea Effect 282
Putting Pygmalion to Work 283

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 285
APPLICATION EXERCISES 286
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: PLAYING CATCH-UP IN KOREA 288
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: ALL THINGS MUST PASS 289

9 Public Leadership 291
The Power of Public Leadership 292
Leading Public Opinion through Public Relations 292
Influencing Audiences through Public Address 298

A Key Leadership Tool 298
Developing Effective Public Speeches 300

Persuasive Campaigns 308
Characteristics of Successful Campaigns 309
Campaign Stages 313

Collaborative (Integrative) Leadership 316
Attributes 317
Skills 317
Behaviors 317

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 319
APPLICATION EXERCISES 320
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: PUBLIC SPEAKING IN KENYA 321
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: BRAVEHEART 322

10 Leadership and Diversity 323
Managing Diversity—The Core of Leadership 324
Understanding Cultural Differences 324

Defining Culture 324
Classifying Cultures 326
Cultural Intelligence (CQ) 334
Cultural Synergy 336

Fostering Diversity 338
The Benefits of Diversity 338
Obstacles to Diversity 341
Promoting Diversity: Overcoming the Barriers 342

The Gender Leadership Gap: Breaking the Glass Ceiling,
Avoiding the Glass Cliff, and Navigating the Labyrinth 345

Male and Female Leadership Behavior: Is There a Difference?
(And Do Women Make Better Leaders?) 347

Creating the Gap 348
Narrowing the Gap 351

xiv Contents

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CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 355
APPLICATION EXERCISES 356
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: THE NOT SO UNIVERSAL

LANGUAGE OF SPORTS 357
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY 359

11 Ethical Leadership and Followership 361
The Importance of Ethics 362
The Ethical Challenges of Leadership:

Casting Light or Shadow 362
The Challenge of Information Management 362
The Challenge of Responsibility 364
The Challenge of Power 366
The Challenge of Privilege 367
The Challenge of Loyalty 368
The Challenge of Consistency 368

Components of Ethical Behavior 370
Component 1: Moral Sensitivity (Recognition) 370
Component 2: Moral Judgment 371
Component 3: Moral Motivation 371
Component 4: Moral Character (Implementation) 372

Ethical Perspectives 374
Kant’s Categorical Imperative 374
Utilitarianism 375
Justice as Fairness 375
Virtue Ethics 377
Altruism 382
Leaders as Servants 385

Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Followership 389
Servant Followership 391
Courageous Followership 391

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 395
APPLICATION EXERCISES 397
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: MORAL TASTE BUDS 398
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: ANGELS IN THE DUST 399

12 Leader and Leadership Development 401
Leader Development: A Lifelong Journey 402
A Proactive Approach to Leader Development 402

Raise Your Developmental Readiness Level 403
Seek Out Leadership Learning Opportunities 404
Establish Developmental Relationships 407
Capitalize on Your Experiences 412

Contents xv

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Leader Development as an Internal Process 419
Stephen Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 419
Kevin Cashman: Leadership from the Inside Out 421
The Role of Spirituality in Leader Development 422

Leadership Transitions 425
Leadership Passages 426
Taking Charge 428
Succession Planning 431

CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 433
APPLICATION EXERCISES 434
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: COACHING ACROSS CULTURES 435
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: THE INTERN 436

13 Leadership in Crisis 437
The Crucible of Crisis 438
Anatomy of a Crisis 439

Crisis Types 439
Crisis Stages 440

Crisis Leadership 443
Precrisis Leadership 444
Leading during the Crisis Event 451
Postcrisis Leadership 455

Extreme Leadership 466
CHAPTER TAKEAWAYS 469
APPLICATION EXERCISES 471
CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: BATTLING EBOLA AND CULTURE 472
LEADERSHIP ON THE BIG SCREEN: PATRIOTS DAY 473

Endnotes 475
Bibliography 519
Index 562

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Preface

Readers of the previous editions of Leadership: A Communication Perspective
will note a variety of changes. New material and research highlights have been
added on a number of topics. For instance: transcendent followership, the leader-
ship skills approach, alternative pathways to outstanding leadership, team coach-
ing, escalation of commitment, strategy, invisible leadership, cultural intelligence,
raising leadership development readiness, 360-degree feedback, trigger events, sit-
uational crisis communication theory, and resilience. You’ll find revised coverage
of a number of other topics, including, for example, identity and leadership, the
traits approach, authentic leadership theory, Taoism, public relations, and persua-
sive campaigns.

Examples, sources, and cases have been updated throughout the book. All of
the films and documentaries described in the Leadership on the Big Screen feature
at the end of every chapter are new to this edition as are a majority of the Cultural
Connections features. There are new case studies on The Container Store, Alibaba’s
Jack Ma, Zappos, Airbnb, Sheryl Sandberg, Uber, Colombian President Juan Man-
uel Santos, Waffle House, Chipotle, and leadership in Antarctica. New self-assess-
ments measure readers’ perceptions of emotional language, personal leadership
style, motivation to lead, organization-public relationships, cultural intelligence,
servant leadership, and personal leadership skills. Leadership: A Communication
Perspective continues to integrate theory and practice. Each chapter blends discus-
sion of research and theory with practical suggestions for improving leadership
effectiveness. Chapter takeaways highlight important concepts and action steps.
Application exercises provide the opportunity to further explore and practice chap-
ter concepts.

Chapter 1 examines the relationship between leadership and communication
with an in-depth look at the nature of leadership, both good and bad, and the leader/
follower relationship. Chapter 2 surveys the research on leader and follower com-
munication styles as well as the link between information processing, identity, and
style selection. Chapters 3 and 4 summarize the development of leadership theory
with an overview of the traits, situational, functional, relational, transformational,

xvii

xviii Preface

Johnson-Hackman 7E.book Page xviii Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:42 PM

charismatic, CIP, and authentic approaches. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on two ele-
ments—power and influence—that are essential to the practice of leadership.

The next three chapters provide an overview of leadership in specific contexts.
Chapter 7 introduces group and team leadership and describes the special chal-
lenges of leading project and virtual teams. Chapter 8 is a discussion of organiza-
tional leadership with particular focus on the creation of culture, developing
strategy, sense making, and the communication of expectations. Chapter 9 exam-
ines the power of public leadership, highlighting public relations, public speaking,
and persuasive campaigns.

The final four chapters look at important leadership issues. Chapter 10
describes the impact of cultural differences on leading and following, how to foster
diversity, and how to narrow the gender leadership gap. Chapter 11 outlines the
ethical challenges facing leaders and followers, components of ethical behavior,
and ethical perspectives that can guide both leaders and followers. Chapter 12
identifies proactive leader development strategies as well as tools for managing
leadership transitions. Chapter 13 examines the role of leadership in preventing
and responding to crises and addresses leadership in extreme contexts.

As noted in the preface to previous editions, this text is designed as an intro-
duction to leadership from a communication vantage point, not as the final word
(as if there could be one) on the topic. Please consider Leadership: A Communica-
tion Perspective as our contribution to a continuing dialogue with you on the sub-
jects of leading and following. Throughout the book we’ll invite you to disagree
with our conclusions, generate additional insights of your own, debate controver-
sial issues, and explore topics in depth through research projects, reflection
papers, and small group discussions. We hope you will discover additional topics
that you think are essential to the study and practice of leadership and will investi-
gate them on your own.

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�����
1

Leadership and Communication


Leadership is action, not position.

—Donald McGannon

OVERVIEW
Leadership: At the Core of Human Experience
Defining Leadership

The Symbolic Nature of Human Communication
The Human Communication Process
Leadership: A Special Form of Human Communication
Leaders vs. Managers
The Question of “Bad” Leadership
The Leader/Follower Relationship

Viewing Leadership from a Communication Perspective
Willingness to Communicate
Storytelling as Leadership
Emotional Communication Competencies
Playing to a Packed House: Leaders as Impression Managers

1

2 Chapter One

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Leadership: At the Core of Human Experience
Leadership attracts universal attention. Historians, philosophers, and social

scientists have attempted to understand and to explain leadership for centuries.
From Confucius to Plato to Machiavelli, many of the world’s most renowned think-
ers have theorized about how people lead one another.1 One reason for the fascina-
tion with this subject lies in the very nature of human experience. Leadership is all
around us. We get up in the morning, open up our tablets or smart phones, turn on
our computer, radio, or television, and discover what actions leaders all over the
world have taken. We attend classes, go to work, and interact in social groups—all
with their own distinct patterns of leadership. Our daily experiences with leader-
ship are not that different from the experiences of individuals in other cultures.
Leadership is an integral part of human life in rural tribal cultures as well as in
modern industrialized nations. Assessing your past leadership efforts can provide
a good starting point for understanding why the success of leadership often varies
so significantly. Identify your own best and worst leadership moments and what
you learned from these experiences by completing the self-assessment exercise in
box 1.1.

Followers prosper under effective leaders and suffer under ineffective leaders
whatever the context: government, corporation, church, mosque or synagogue,
school, athletic team, or class project group. The study of leadership, then, is more
than academic. Understanding leadership has practical importance for all of us.
(See the case study in box 1.2 for a dramatic example of how important leadership
can be.) In this text we will examine leadership in a wide variety of situations. The
perspective, however, remains the same—leadership is best understood from a
communication standpoint. As Gail Fairhurst and Robert Sarr explain, effective
leaders use language as their most tangible tool for achieving desired outcomes.2
Let’s begin our exploration of leadership by considering the special nature of
human communication and the unique qualities of leadership.

Defining Leadership
As noted above, leadership is a fundamental element of the human condition.

Wherever society exists, leadership exists. Any definition of leadership must
account for its universal nature. Leadership seems to be linked to what it means to
be human. As communication specialists, we believe that what makes us unique as
humans is our ability to create and manipulate symbols.


I take leadership to signify the act of making a difference.

—Michael Useem

Leadership and Communication 3

Box 1.1 Self-Assessment Your Best and Worst Leadership Moment3

We all have had leadership success at some point. Whether in high school, college, in a music
group, in sports, in a condominium association or religious group, or on the job, we have all
accomplished goals through other people. We have all acted as leaders. Looking back over your
experiences, what is the moment that you are most proud of as a leader? Describe the details of
that moment below.

Not only have we had leadership success, we’ve also endured leadership failure. Becoming a
leader requires reflecting on and learning from past miscues so that you don’t repeat errors. What
was your worst experience as a leader? Record your thoughts in the space below.

Given the best and worst leadership experiences you identified, consider the lessons you have
learned about leadership in the past. In working through this assessment it can be very helpful to
share your leadership stories with others so that you have a richer set of examples from which to
compile a list of leadership lessons. The lessons learned from past leadership experiences might
be things like: It is difficult to succeed as a leader when followers are not motivated; leadership works
best when you have a clear sense of direction; or a leader must be sure his or her message is under-
stood to ensure followers stay involved. Try to identify 10 leadership lessons your experiences (and,
if possible, those of others) have provided.

Leadership Lessons

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

Johnson-Hackman 7E.book Page 3 Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:42 PM

4 Chapter One

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Box 1.2 Case Study Death and Heroism on the Savage Mountain4

Mountaineers call K2 the Savage Mountain. The world’s second tallest peak, K2 claims a
greater percentage of climbers (1 in 3) than Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain (1 in 10).
Fewer than 300 climbers have topped K2 as compared to over 3,000 on Mt. Everest. The Savage
Mountain is not only steeper and harder to climb than Mt. Everest; its location further north
makes it even more susceptible to bad weather. There are only a few days when high winds and
snow abate, allowing climbers to attempt to reach the summit at over 27,000 feet.

In summer 2008, ten expeditions made up of members from Serbia, the United States, France,
South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, Nepal, and Pakistan huddled in their small tents at the high-
est camp on K2 waiting for the weather to break. Because so many people were on the mountain,
team leaders knew they had to coordinate their efforts, particularly to navigate the Bottleneck.
The Bottleneck is a narrow, sheer section of trail that requires climbers to go single file. At the Bot-
tleneck, a slow climber can delay all those who follow. Team leaders agreed that on the day of the
summit one group would go first and lay out ropes for the other teams to use as they ascended
and descended the Bottleneck. Another group would put willow wands in the snow to mark the
path back to camp.

On August 1 the weather cleared and 20 climbers launched their mass assault on the summit.
Problems arose almost immediately. The lead team didn’t have enough rope and started to lay
rope too soon so that there wasn’t enough to reach the top of the Bottleneck. The wands weren’t
planted. The only climber to have previously made it to the top took sick and couldn’t summit.
Some groups were slow to start and, as feared, a cluster of climbers got stuck below the Bottle-
neck, waiting to ascend. A Serbian fell to his death during the initial ascent and another climber
died while trying to retrieve his body.

Descending in darkness is highly dangerous, as is bivouacking at 27,000 feet without shelter
in intense cold. To avoid these dangers, climbers should have turned back by 2 PM. Instead, most
pressed on to the top, not reaching their goal until much later. Eighteen reached the summit—a
K2 record—with the last team arriving at 7 PM. As a result, some decided to stop for the night
while others made their way back down the mountain. That’s when disaster struck. A huge over-
hanging piece of ice broke off. Tumbling through the Bottleneck, it buried one climber and
scoured away the ropes. Subsequent icefalls and avalanches, as well as the elements, disorienta-
tion, and deadly climbing conditions, would take additional lives. The total death toll was 11,
making this one of the worst mountaineering disasters ever.

While nothing could have prevented the huge icefall, the loss of life was greater than it should
have been. To begin, members of the various expeditions never bonded but instead remained
strangers. They had difficulty communicating with each other because of language differences,
and operated independently. Members of some teams were highly critical of the preparation and
skills of those on other teams. This apparently contributed to a disregard for human life when the
crisis struck. Far too many ignored those in need, failing to offer assistance to those likely to per-
ish. According to a Dutch survivor, “Everybody was fighting for himself and I still do not under-
stand why everybody were leaving each other.”

Summit fever drove many to continue to climb when they should have turned back, putting
them at high risk. So close to reaching their goal, they feared that they would never have
another chance to reach their objective. Some had corporate sponsors and felt additional pres-
sure to summit. The high-altitude porters had an incentive to support their efforts because they
would earn a $1000 bonus if their clients succeeded. Those on the …

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