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Endurance Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

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Annette Robinson


Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Alfred Lansing

-Through the Lens of the Leadership Challenge

I was vaguely familiar with Shackleton’s adventures. Upon reading that he went against sea legends and renamed his vessel, a foreboding that Poseidon would not be pleased set in, and this was not going to go well for the ship. Fortunately for the men aboard the Endurance, they were provided with the leadership it was going to take to survive two years in the Antarctic.

Shackleton was able to Model the Way by demonstrating he believed in the mission and showing his core values which included: discipline, optimism, harmony, commitment, positivity, loyalty, perseverance, courage, respect, teamwork, strong work ethic, and service to others. He strived in maintaining a positive attitude. For those who tended to be agitators and defeatist, he had them stay in his tent, so they would be less likely to have a negative effect on the morale of others and he could correct them as necessary. He also chose them to man the Caird with him, so they would not be poisoning the thoughts of those left behind. To further morale, he encouraged singing, games, and other team building activities. He often included himself in tasks such as maintaining watch and manning the helm. His actions inspired optimism and shared commitment in his men.

To Inspire a Shared Vision, Shackleton was able to share several visions. Initially, the expedition team members understood the purpose in a Trans-Antarctic crossing, their role and value in the expedition, and were specifically chosen for their interest and excitement in the mission. When the ship became ice locked, he was able to get his men to shift their mission to surviving the Antarctic winter aboard the ship and concentrate on their role and duties. When the ship was crushed, he then successfully got the men to shift their focus to crossing the ice and water with the goal of returning home.

His ability to Challenge the Process was demonstrated by his capacity to adapt to the circumstances. While his ship became trapped in ice, he was not trapped in the original plan, he shifted his mission and survival tactics. Once the ship started breaking up, he had to be creative and adapt to life on the ice. Once the decision was made to leave the ship and try to make it to South Georgia Island, he adapted and adjusted his plan several times during the journey home. He searched for opportunities to improve the situation for his men to insure their survival.

The men of the Endurance survival chances were greatly enhanced by Shackleton’s skill at demonstrating Enable Others to Act. He taught his men that he was trustworthy by his actions, demeanor, and assuring them they could come to him with concerns. He came to know his men as individuals, learned their strengths, and how to minimize their weaknesses effect on the group. He created a common purpose and invigorated their sense of unity by balancing assigned duties and with playful activities which would promote bonding. He encouraged collaboration further by having the men cross train, which increased their skill level and stimulated them during the monotonous times. By understanding his men’s skill levels, personality, and disposition, he was able to help them individually make a stronger contribution to the team. He also understood the importance of trust and harmony and made sure to include structured actions and entertainment to strengthen unity.

By repeatedly demonstrating he deeply cared about his men and had faith in their abilities, Shackleton was able to Encourage the Heart. He set goals that he knew would be challenging but obtainable. The most common theme for reward after a particularly strenuous day was extra rations, because of its value and scarcity, and the allowance of sleeping in. He recognized the need for celebrations and stimulated the men to sing, dance, and participate in skits, such as the celebration of Midwinter’s Day aboard the ice locked ship. He was able to get maximum effort from his men by enabling them to succeed, recognizing when they had reached their limits, releasing pressure before they failed, recognizing the need to celebrate small victories, and reinforcing the spirit of community.

There are many encouraging lessons that can be derived from this ordeal. Alfred Lansing was able to demonstrate Shackleton’s leadership skills that we can emulate. We need to able to identify our values and vision,



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