I have read extensively on the lives, characteristics and leadership styles of all the great leaders, including Alexander the Great, Montgomery, Elizabeth 1st, Churchill, Ghandi, Mandella, Luther-King et al (the list is pretty extensive).
However, the one that earns my greatest respect and the one with whom I feel the greatest affinity is Shackleton, because I have learned so much from his style of leadership – characteristics that I have endeavoured to incorporate within my own management style.
Sir Ernest Shackleton has been called “the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth bar none” for saving the lives of twenty-seven men stranded with him on an Antarctic ice floe for almost two years.
From 1914 to 1916, Shackleton and his men survived the wreck of their ship Endurance in the crushing Antarctic ice, stranded twelve hundred miles from civilization, with no means of communication and no hope of rescue. The temperatures were so low the men could hear the ice freeze. They subsisted on a diet of penguins, seals and ultimately… dogs.
When the ice began to break up, Shackleton set out to save them all on a heroic eight-hundred mile trip across the frigid South Atlantic – in little more than a rowboat.
Unlike most of the polar expeditions, every man survived – not only in good health, but also in good spirits – all due to the leadership skills of Shackleton.
So What Are The Leadership Lessons We Can Learn?
Here are just a few that I have worked hard to adopt:
- Cultivate a sense of compassion and responsibility for others. As a leader, you have a bigger impact on the lives of those under you than you can imagine.
- Once a career decision has been made, commit to stick it out through the tough learning period.
- Play your part in creating an upbeat environment – a positive and vibrant workplace is important to productivity.
- Broaden your cultural and social horizon beyond your normal experiences. Learning to see life from different perspectives will give you greater flexibility when it comes to problem solving at work.
- We live in a rapidly changing world, so be willing to venture in new directions to seize new opportunities and learn new skills.
- Find ways in which to turn setbacks and failures to your advantage. This represents a good time to step forward on your own.
- Be bold in vision and careful in planning. Dare to try something new but be meticulous with your proposal so that your ideas have a good chance of succeeding.
- Learn from your mistakes – yours and those made by others. Sometimes the best teachers are the worst bosses.
- Never insist on achieving a goal or objective at any cost. It must be achieved at a reasonable expense, without undue hardship on your staff.
- Don’t be drawn into public disputes with rivals – better to engage in respectful competition. Remember, you may need their co-operation someday (Due to my crusading spirit and refusal to lower my standards of what is fair and right, this is the one that I have had the most difficulty with!).
If you are a leader, you will have identified closely with all of these principles.
If you are a follower, you will be considering how your leader would stand up to such a test?