Measured against its objectives, Ernest Schackleton’s 1914 Im- perial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was a failure.
The expedition failed to make the ;rst
land crossing of Antarctica via the South
Pole. The crew completed few of the
planned science experiments. The ship
upon which the adventurers set sail sank
midway through the voyage.
Nevertheless, more than 100 years
later, people consider Shackleton a model
of creative, inspirational and e;ective
leadership. Over 26 grueling months, the
British explorer guided his 28-man crew
through unimaginable adversity.
The trouble began when the Endurance, the converted tourist ship on which
the team set sail, became stuck in pack
ice 100 miles short of Antarctica. After
repeated e;orts to dislodge the vessel,
Schackleton’s team drifted for 10 months
with the ice. When the ice tightened
and began to crush the Endurance, the
adventurers abandoned ship after saving
their three 23-foot life boats, provisions,
tents, sleds and other gear.
For the next ;ve months, the men
walked, camped and drifted on a series of
ice ;oes until they reached a small, deso-
late island. From there, Schackleton and
six of his men sailed across 800 miles of
treacherous sea to the nearest inhabited
island. The team resupplied and sailed
back to rescue those they had left. Not a
single man died.
How did Schackleton do it?
In “Leading at the Edge: Leadership
Lessons From the Extraordinary Saga
of Schackleton’s Antarctic Expedition,”
consultant Dennis Perkins identi;es 10
leadership principles Schackleton used to
guide his team home.
1. Vision and quick victories. Never
lose sight of the big goal, and focus
energy on short-term objectives.
2. Symbolism and personal example. Set a personal example with
visible, memorable symbols and
3. Optimism and reality. Instill optimism and self-con;dence, but stay
grounded in reality.
4. Stamina. Take care of yourself. Maintain your stamina and let go of guilt.
5. A team message. Constantly reinforce the team message. “We are one
— we live or die together.”
6. Core team values. Minimize status
di;erences and insist on courtesy and
7. Strategies for conflict. Master con;ict. Deal with anger in small doses,
engage dissidents and avoid needless
8. Humor. Find something to celebrate
and something to laugh about.
9. Risk. Be willing to take the “big risk.”
These principles that worked for
Schackleton and his team probably
would work for us, too.
10 Leadership Principles
That Still Work
Thoughts and Observations
From the Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
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