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Leadership: A Key For Survival During Crises – Lessons From Ernest Shackleton

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For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” – Sir Raymond Priestly, Antarctic Explorer and Geologist.

According to Douglas MacArthur, leadership is “having the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.” That defines Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton on the famous Trans-Antarctic Expedition between 1914 – 1917.

Shackleton is the subject of a new case study at Harvard Business School. He is analyzed to inspire business leaders in times of adversity, which has further cemented his legacy as a leader.

That makes us ask, what has Shackleton to teach leaders? And why would an account of leadership during a largely failed expedition be inspiring? The short answer is – a true leader will need to expect and face off adversities, show strength, flexibility, and adapt through a crisis. Simply put, Be a Shackleton!

Endurance Frozen in the Ice, Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1916’ by Frank Hurley.
(Courtesy of Royal Geographical Society)-Wikipedia.

Shackleton’s objective on the Endurance Expedition was to cross the Antarctic continent from coast to coast. Despite warnings about the possibility of the sea freezing, he and his team decided to embark on this journey.

About a month in, the ship froze and was no longer able to move – crushed by packed ice, the pressure ridges were ripped away from the rudder and forced the men to abandon ship and seek refuge on sheets of ice for months. Eventually, the sea engulfed the ship.

In this article, Shackleton’s leadership response through the crisis is our main concern. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Their response, when adversity sets in, is what makes a leader like Shackleton tremendous and is seen as heroic.

With a sinking ship, faced with inevitable expedition failure, Shackleton set a new goal to ensure the survival of all 28 of his crew members and getting every man back to Britain safely.

He re-evaluated his obsessive dedication to cross the Antarctic continent, and he was flexible enough to change his cause to match his current situation. He said a man must shape himself to a new mark the minute the old one goes to ground. To be a successful entrepreneur and leader, this is a must-have skill.

Not only should you be able to adapt from a failed objective and strategy quickly, but you should also be able to set a new objective to meet your current realities. Armed with a new adventurous goal and having only ice sheets to drift on for months, all 28 explorers survived the harsh conditions, devastating and potentially deadly setbacks until they arrived in Elephant Island. When disaster strikes, adapt. 

“How he did what he did is very instructive,” says Nancy Koehn – a Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor of Business Administration. “It has both inspirational lessons and things we don’t want to do.” It is this duality, she says, that makes Shackleton such a compelling case, knocking him off a mythologized pedestal and into the messy stew of humanity, where good and bad, success and failure coexist.

Shackleton’s new objective saw challenges under the demanding circumstances of mind-numbing, seemingly unending boredom, and having one of his crew members become rebellious. He, however, consistently showed up with quick decision making like paying the entire crew until they got to England, placing his team on a strict daily routine, and introducing different activities such as poetry and readings for their long nights. That helped stop the rebelling crew member from influencing others and in keeping the crews’ morale high.

You see, anyone can be captain when the sea is calm because navigation is all fun and straightforward! It merely requires paying attention, following the map, and going with the flow. However, when turbulence begins, and the sea becomes violent, the real leader’s litmus test is set up.

In conclusion, these few Shackleton practices are essential for success as a leader and can help you during and after Covid-19;

  1. Shackleton continuously met with himself to assess and reassess his approach to the changing mission.
  2. He showed relentless commitment to his primary objective, which was now the safe return of his crew members.
  3. He maintained his team’s belief in the mission by managing both collective and individual energy.
  4. Shackleton took full responsibility for the mission and continued to improve it.
  5. Before setting on this journey, he meticulously chose his crew members; he mentioned this about the Nimrod Expedition – “The personnel of an expedition…is a factor on which success depends to a huge extent”
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Business

The Truth About Time Management: It’s Not About Time

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We’ve all heard the expression, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” In truth, we’ve likely all said it at some point. Time management is a struggle for everybody, but especially entrepreneurs, CEOs, and founders.

Interestingly, some people seem to get more out of our 24 hours each day than others. As author Idowu Koyenikan said, the key to making the most of our hours isn’t time management—it’s life management. People who do it successfully balance the things they love with tasks they need to complete to maintain a well-rounded, satisfying life.

To-do lists or any one of the countless books on time management can help you achieve this balance, but things will eventually fall apart unless you make a habit of productivity—and stick to it. This might mean writing down your top priorities for the day or week, using a productivity app, or creating a plan that works best.

The Truth About Time Management for CEOs

When it comes to time management skills and techniques, business leaders are among the worst offenders. This typically happens because of the nature of leadership positions. These individuals are driven by the feeling that they have to do everything or have all the answers. On average, they’re also responsible for a lot: CEOs work 9.7 hours per weekday and spend 79 percent of weekend days and 70 percent of their vacation days working.

Success doesn’t come from adding countless tasks to your calendar and putting in the longest possible hours. It comes from purposeful, intentional work, which means managing your time more effectively to focus on what matters. To get there, business leaders have to reset their time-management expectations.

Only using productivity tools doesn’t lead to better time management—developing concrete time-management skills does.

How Are You Managing Your Time?

While CEOs and business leaders have countless resources at their disposal, they frequently lack time. Here are four steps to improve your time-management skills and techniques to maximize the time you do have: continue reading…

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Business

Why You Should Have A Website And Not Just Rely On Social Media

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No one could have predicted just how revolutionary social media would be when MySpace started gaining followers in the early 2000s. Even in 2006, when Facebook and Twitter became widely available to the global population, there were still lingering doubts about its longevity and potential as a profit-making vehicle.

In retrospect, it makes sense: after the meteoric rise and crushing fall of the 90s dot com bubble, it was still very much open to interpretation as to whether this new wave of interactive media would be able to survive (let alone thrive) into the future.

We know differently today.

As of early 2019, there were 4.2 billion internet users, of which 3.397 billion were active on social media.

To put this even further into perspective, consider that, on average, every one of those users owns 5.54 social media accounts and spends 116 minutes a day scrolling their news-feeds or chatting with friends.

And those mind-boggling numbers are still growing. Three hundred twenty million new profiles were created between September 2017 and October 2018, which works out to 10 new social media users every second. This figure alone is almost double the average number of human births per second.

That’s right. Social media growth is outstripping the global human birth rate.

You Do Not Own Social Media

We get it. Starting a Facebook page for your small business when you don’t have much working capital seems like a much smarter option than stumping up for a website. Not only is it free, it can also put you in touch with pretty much everybody you’d like to sell to. If you’re a local-oriented biz you can make a point of highlighting your location or some other specific selling point.  Continue reading…

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