Ernest Shackleton: An Exceptional Example of Endurance
Although Shackleton died without having achieved his goal of traversing the continent of Antarctica, he is remembered for something even more extraordinary.
After his ship, the Endurance, became hopelessly trapped in pack ice, Shackleton abandoned his goal and through astonishing tenacity ensured the survival of all 27 of his crewmen despite unbelievable odds that lasted two years. So impressed was the crew with his fearless tenacity that eight members of the ill-fated Endurance voyage even signed up for Shackleton’s next expedition to Antarctica. Harvard Business School created a great business case based on his story called Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance.
There are three lessons from that case that I think can apply to businesses and I’d like to share them with you today:
- The message is one of the human spirit in all its strengths and weaknesses. Business leaders have to be able to discern both of these aspects in people and organizations. In order to appreciate the strengths and possibilities of a given person or enterprise, leaders must also be able to see an individual or organization’s weaknesses.
- Business needs to look outside its own environment to find important insights into how to motivate people, allocate resources and act with great integrity in moments of crisis.
3. Leaders have to be able to manage in stable, prosperous times and also in very uncertain, dangerous times. And sometimes they have to be able to lead when the stakes are much, much greater than they expected them to be.
I don’t know “What Animal” Ernest Shackleton would have tested as, but I think he is a fantastic example of an Enduring Wildebeest.