Business & Leadership

Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer

Most leaders are honored for their heroic victories, a few others for their glorious defeats. Shackleton never reached the South Pole despite several attempts, yet his legendary experience of leading a 27-member crew to survive over two harrowing years in Antarctica continues to inspire and teach us a wonderful lesson on leadership one century after his death.

Most leaders are honored for their heroic victories, a few others for their glorious defeats. Shackleton never reached the South Pole despite several attempts, yet his legendary experience of leading a 27-member crew to survive over two harrowing years in Antarctica continues to inspire and teach us a wonderful lesson on leadership one century after his death.


“There are lots of good things in this world, but I’m not sure that comradeship is not the best of them all – to know that you can do something big for another chap.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                - Sir Ernest Shackleton

In 1914, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set off his second expedition with a 27-man crew in an attempt to cross the Antarctic continent through the South Pole on foot. Five months later, his vessel Endurance was stranded in ice, only to finally sink in November of 1915. During more than 700 days, Shackleton led his crew to struggle for survival in the remote and unforgiving continent. His single goal: bring all crew members home safely against unimaginable odds. He won this battle by persevering with incredible determination, compassion, optimism and, true to his namesake vessel, endurance. As Reginald W. James, physicist on the ship, said: "I do not think there is any doubt that we all owe our lives to his leadership and his power of making a loyal and coherent party out of rather diverse elements."

One century later, this legendary example of human endurance was rediscovered in a number of literary works, thanks to a renewed fascination with the early period of Antarctic exploration. Although Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell are neither the only nor the first to write about this fantastic leader, their rich experience as business observers and the 15-year research of Morrell makes their book, Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer, a unique combination of captivating narrative tales as well as a practical handbook of leadership lessons.

From childhood to death, this book vividly narrates the course of Shackleton’s life and reveals marked events that influenced his brand of leadership. Woven with interviews of modern-day leaders such Mike Dale (Jaguar's former chief of North American operations), James Lovell (Apollo 13 Commander) and James Cramer (founder of TheStreet.com), the historical adventure is imbued with refreshing and timely business insight. Moreover, each chapter begins with a short subtitle that succinctly summarizes one aspect of Shackleton’s leadership without interrupting the flow of narrative accounts. In this book the reader is constantly transported between the past and the present, the theoretical and the historical, all while being awed and instructed by the exploits of a hero and the weaknesses of a human.

If judged in terms of the achievement of pre-determined goals, Shackleton can hardly be considered a successful explorer, but the leadership he demonstrated during this period of change and crisis is nonetheless of great significance to all hoping to inspire and lead today.


Photo: Endurance trapped in Antarctic pack ice. Origin: Digital Collections of the National Library of Australia.

About this book:
Title: Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
Authors: Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell
Publisher: Penguin Books (2002)
Paperback pages: 256
Find it at Amazon


Jeanne Yizhen YIN


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