I’m thrilled to share one of my favorite stories from the last century, as the leadership lessons contained in the written and film record of this incredible expedition are timeless and inspirational. In 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew set sail from England to Antarctica, in an attempt to achieve what no one had done before: cross the Antarctic continent from one coast to the other via the South Pole.
Unfortunately, Shackleton and his crew never set foot on the continent, as they were caught in an ice flow some 85 miles offshore. Their ship, the Endurance, was eventually crushed in the icy grips of the flow, and the tale of survival and rescue that followed is one of the greatest tales of human determination and accomplishment of all times.
Watch this video clip before reading on. They had a photographer on board (Frank Hurley: http://www.shackleton-endurance.com/images.html) and they managed to preserve the film throughout the expedition and rescue!
One value of recounting the great achievements wrought by our fellows throughout history is that their stories help to put our current worries, fears or concerns into perspective. Did you really let traffic “ruin your day,” the wrong item in your take-out order “upset you” or an unfriendly glare or comment “cause you to blow up?” Try dealing with being stranded in the middle of nowhere for two years, incommunicado and with 27 people you’ve only just met.
Another benefit of reviewing such incredible but true tales is that they contain in them concentrated and luminous pearls of wisdom concerning life, leadership and management. No matter what Shackleton encountered, he maintained his dignity, his position of leadership and a level head.
I read a great paper summarizing the leadership lessons available in Shackleton’s adventure in the Endurance. It was written by Charles Chappell, of the 2001 class of the Wharton Executive MBA Program. You’ll love this!
I recommend that you write down the leadership lessons italicized in Chappell’s paper, stick them somewhere you will see them regularly and put them into practice. They’re nothing short of life changing!