Monday, July 7, 2008

Summit Syndrome

By: Parsons, George D., Pascale, Richard T.,
Harvard Business Review,
March 2007, Vol. 85, Issue 3

The summit syndrome unfolds in three phases, each with its own distinct indicators. The first is approaching the crest of a job, when a person, having mastered most of the challenges of the role, is nearing peak proficiency. This is a time when some may push harder to recapture the adrenaline rush of the climb. The second phase is plateauing, when the summit has been reached and virtually all of the challenges have been conquered. While the less ambitious person is apt to coast at this point, the overachiever bears down even harder to produce ever more stellar results. The third phase is descending. It is the terminal stage of the syndrome, when a leader's job performance begins to slip noticeably, triggering an accelerating slide. As the person's superstar status fades, he jumps ship, accepts a demotion, or takes a lateral transfer.

About the author

George D. Parsons (, the president of Parsons Group, in Eugene, Oregon, is a management consultant and executive coach. He has worked with senior leaders in more than 100 organizations in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Richard T. Pascale ( is an associate fellow of Oxford University, was on the faculty at Stanford Business School for 20 years, and has advised major corporations in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He is the author of a half-dozen HBR articles on transformational change, won the McKinsey Award for "Zen and the Art of Management" (March-April 1978), and has written numerous books, most recently his, Mark Milleman, and Linda Gioja's Surfing the Edge of Chaos (Crown 2000). He resides in California.

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