After the ship was crushed, the crew faced starvation, extreme temperatures, and complete isolation. Yet, with little hope of rescue, members of the expedition remained cohesive and in relatively good spirits during the 634 day ordeal.
What was it that enabled Shackleton and his teammates to overcome extreme adversity and return without loss of life? I'm convinced that the safe return of Shackleton's expedition can be attributed to much more than luck. I believe that the leadership strategies that enabled Shackleton's crew to triumph can be found in a set of principles common to many other stories of survival. I also believe that these strategies can be used by leaders in any organization facing today's unprecedented levels of turbulence, ambiguity, and uncertainty.
The Ten Strategies for Success outlined in Leading at the Edge are vividly portrayed with examples from the Shackleton expedition, and from other contemporary stories of teams at The Edge. Practical illustrations of precisely how leaders can apply these strategies to situations in the business world complement the gripping survival case studies.
Taken together, the book provides a blueprint that will help leaders and their teams:
- Overcome fear and anxiety
- Draw on the power of personal example
- Stay optimistic, yet grounded in reality
- Maintain their stamina in the face of overwhelming demands
- Reinforce the message of team unity
- Deal productively with conflict and dissent
- Use appropriate humor to deal with tension
- Step up to appropriate risks, and
- Build a culture of tenacious creativity
The strategies that worked nearly one hundred years ago for Ernest Shackleton work equally well today. For example, Shackleton's ordeal lasted almost two years, but the journey of Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger was much shorter. It lasted a total of six minutes, and he landed in the same city from which he departed. But when Sullenberger brought the passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 safely in for an emergency landing on the ice-cold Hudson River, he was demonstrating the same set of exceptional skills as Shackleton.
The Trans-Antarctic Expedition and the Miracle on the Hudson both provide vivid, powerful lessons for leaders. Beyond that, they inspire us all to excel in the face of adversity.
It is sometimes said that hope is not a strategy, and this is true. But the corollary is, without hope, who needs a strategy? Leaders need to take concrete steps in the face of adversity and, at the same time, provide hope and inspiration. By understanding stories of triumph at The Edge, we can learn how to do both.
Dennis N.T. Perkins, Ph.D., author of Leading at The Edge, Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition, Second Edition, is Chief Executive Officer of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to effective leadership in demanding environments. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he served as a Marine company commander and later a faculty member of the Yale School of Management. He has taken his passion for The Edge to Antarctica, where he retraced Shackleton's journey, and now resides in Madison, Connecticut. For more information please visit http://www.syncreticsgroup.com and http://www.amacombooks.org
Adapted from LEADING AT THE EDGE: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition, Second Edition by Dennis N.T. Perkins, with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy (AMACOM; March 28, 2012; $15.00 Paperback; 978-0-8144-3194-8).
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