Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Leadership Lessons from Another Frozen Expedition

The events of the past 24 hours have reminded me of  one of my favorite leadership lesson from history that resulted from the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by the British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackelton.  When he was assembling a crew for the expedition Shackelton posted the following announcement:

MEN WANTED for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.

He received 5,000 responses for the 27 available positions!

In January 1915 his ship the Endurance became trapped in an ice deep in the Weddell Sea.  After waiting 11 months hoping the ship might be set free, the Endurance – crushed by the ice pack – sank.  It would be August 2016 before the entire crew was rescued without a single loss of life.  The journey to rescue required traversing ice packs, open seas and across an “impassable” mountain range.  Survival required tremendous courage, resilience and leadership.   Shackleton’s leadership principles included:

Hire an outstanding crew
Overcome fear and anxiety
Draw on the power of personal example
Stay optimistic, yet grounded in reality
Reinforce the message of team unity
Deal productively with conflict and dissent
Use appropriate humor to deal with tension
Step up to appropriate risks
Build a culture of tenacious creativity

Our Snowpocalplse isn’t anywhere close to what the crew of the Endurance experienced (of for that matter what the best man from my wedding experiences every Chicago winter) but it’s been a great reminder of the importance of leadership to survive the storms that come our way.

And I remain so proud of the way our “crew” is continuing to care for those entrusted to us here “on the mountain.”  I feel confident we will get everyone home safe and that it won’t take years!

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