Wharton Leadership Ventures
Walk in Mann Gulch
Leadership from the Fire of August 5, 1949
Climb on Storm King Mountain, Colorado:
Learning Leadership from the South Canyon Fire of July 6, 1994
Carlson, U.S. Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia
James Cook, National Interagency Fire Center, Boise, Idaho
James Steele, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Missoula, Montana
Larry Sutton, National Interagency Fire Center, Boise, Idaho
Michael Useem, Wharton Center for Leadership and Change, Philadelphia, Pa.
Wagner Dodge lead a group of firefighters into Mann Gulch
to fight a fire on August 5, 1949, and within two hours of landing in the gulch,
the fire had blown up and fatally burned thirteen of sixteen firefighters.
By walking the fateful path that Dodge and his crew followed from its
drop zone at 5 pm to the lethal end just before 6 pm, we seek to better
understand how individual and team leadership shaped the course of events in the
gulch. We build our
appreciation for the capacities of leadership that make a difference when a team
is facing a fast-moving, rapidly-changing, and intensely stressful field of
action. Among the qualities that we
focus upon are those of thinking strategically, communicating effectively, and acting
decisively. We also be
examine the role of risk awareness and rapid decision making.
Our method is to become steeped in the conditions Dodge and
his team confronted when they arrived in Mann Gulch and the decisions they made
to attack the fire and then seek escape from it. For this we read what is available before arriving in
the gulch, and we devote the day to walking the path that
Dodge and his crew followed, re-examining the decisions and actions that Dodge
took at a dozen key points. During the walk, we
stop frequently to review the team’s movements and identify the emerging
lessons for leadership and teamwork whatever the setting.
At the end of the day, our evening discussion focuses upon the key
implications for leadership and decision-making in high speed, high-stakes
environments. A video team accompanied our walk
on July 19, 2001 to prepare a film that brings out the main leadership lessons
for managers in a range of institutions, from fire protection and the armed
forces to business management and public administration.
Photos by Mike
Useem; click for additional photos by Eric
Carlson and James
Norman Maclean, Young
Men and Fire. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Richard Rothermel, Mann Gulch: A Race That Couldn’t Be
Won. U.S. Forest Service:
Intermountain Research Station, 1993 (available at
Michael Useem, The
Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons
for Us All. New York: Random
House, 1998. Chapter 2, “Wagner
Dodge Retreats in Mann Gulch.”
Bret Butler, Roberta A. Bartlette, Larry S. Bradshaw, Jack
D. Cohen, Patricia L. Andrews, Ted Putnam, and Richard J. Mangan, Fire
Behavior Associated with the 1994 Storm Fire on Storm King Mountain.
U.S. Forest Service: Rocky
Mountain Research Station, 1998.
B. W. Butler, J. D. Cohen, T. Putnam, R. A. Bartlette, and
L. S. Bradshaw, “Escape Routes: An Anecdotal Evaluation.”
Draft article, 2001.
John N. Maclean, Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of
the South Canyon Fire. New
York: William Morrow & Co, 1999.
Karl E. Weich,
"The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch
Disaster," Administrative Science Quarterly, 1993, Vol. 38, pp.
on walk of july 19, 2001
U.S. Marine Corps
Col. Eric H. Carlson, Director of
Operations, Marine Corps University; firstname.lastname@example.org.
1st Lt. James A.
Walker, First Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps; Walkerja@3mawyuma.usmc.mil.
National Interagency Fire
Center and Related Agencies
Boatner, State Fire Management Officer, Bureau of Land Management, Montana; Tom_Boatner@blm.gov.
James Cook, Training Projects
Coordinator, USFS-Fire Safety Program, National Interagency Fire Center, Boise,
Bryan Day, Instructional Media
Unit, Bureau of Land Management; Bryan_Day@blm.gov.
Bob Kambitsch, Instructional
Media Unit, Bureau of Land Management; Bob_Kambitsch@blm.gov.
Linane, Training Specialist, Ventura County Fire Department, Camarillo,
Steele, Northern Rockies Training Center, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Missoula,
Larry Sutton, Program Leader,
BLM Training, National Interagency Fire Center, Boise, Idaho; larry_Sutton@nifc.blm.gov.
Turner, Public Affairs Officer, Helena District, Helena National Forest; email@example.com.
Wing, Aviation Training Specialist, Northern Rockies Training Center; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wharton Center for
Leadership and Change
Mark Davidson, Wharton
Leadership Ventures; Lake Tahoe, Nevada; email@example.com.
Neil A. Doherty, Professor
of Insurance and Risk Management, Wharton School, University of
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Useem, Professor of
Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change, Wharton School,
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.; email@example.com.