“Men wanted- For harzardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant dangers, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition incase of success” – Ernest Shackleton.
More than five thousands men enlisted. Twenty seven were favoured.
After months of preparation, Shackleton and his crew finally set sail for what he called the Imperial Trans-antarctic expedition.
However, four months into their voyage, Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, got trapped and frozen in ice. After months of waiting for the ice to melt, the ship rather began to sink.
Shackleton and his crew abandoned the ship and camped on floating ice hoping it would drift them to safe landing. But unfortunately the ice floe broke into two after six months of camping, and the only chance to survive was to leave the floe.
Shackleton ordered his crew into boats and set sail for the nearest island,Elephant Island, which was 346 miles from where Endurance sank.
Elephant island was inhospitable. They were all frostbitten. Some of them had dysentry and palsy. And worst of all, no means of radiocontact for help.
Overwhelmed by this circumstance, some of the men broke down and wept.
Shackleton, however remained unswerved. He thought if they tarried on the island, they would all die. Hence, he chose five companions, leaving 22 men behind, and embarked on a 800-mile journey in a 6meter long open boat to South georgia station to summon help. How they survived this 15-day voyage in an open boat in a stormy and wavy sea is still incredible to mankind.
Unfortunately, it was not until four and half months later, Shackleton got help and returned to Elephant island.
Upon arriving,from a distance, Shackleton scanned the island with his binoculars and counted “One, two,three… twenty-two. They are all alive! They are all alive!” They screamed.
The men were all rescued and returned to London where their survival story spread all over the world. They became heroes. Even Germany at War with Britain, gave them a heroic welcome.
However touching Shackleton’s story may be, it is nothing compared to the lessons it contains which is badly needed in the 21st century.
From the numero uno of a multinational to the coach of an amateur team, there are Leadership qualities we must imbibe from this story. Among them are-
- Optimism and Hope –
Life will bounce us. Life will back us to a corner. Are we going to bounce back? Are we going to enter the wall?
Shackleton’s optimism is jaw – dropping.
How do you not quake seeing your ship being gulped by a limitless ocean? How did he keep of 27 men optimistic in the bleakest of time?
This is one of the attributes of great leaders- they do not only remain hopefully, they also inspire hope in others.
As leaders in this age of uncertainty, where change happens faster than we can imagine, optimism must be a lifestyle.
Shackleton’s all burning goal was to cross the antartic continent. The moment the ship was gone, the goal followed suit. But a new goal emerged which is to return all his men home alive.
Often times we are entrapped in our cocoon and never give up on certain things even though the chance of ruin is as certain as Nigeria not winning the world cup.
While it is good to be pertinacious, there are situations we need to give up and adjust our goal. So the bottom line is be flexible to know when to give up and when not to.
- Sacrifice –
At a time, Shackleton gave his own portion of buscuit to his dying crew member, Frank Wild. Wild later wrote- “All the money ever minted could not have bought that buscuit”.
Great leaders put people first before themselves. They are selfless. Which is why they remain relevant after they had long gone.
- Ability to compel loyalty-
At some moments, some of the men rebeled, they questioned Shackleton’s judgement. He even had a stand off with his carpenter – McNeish. But through it all, he maintained their loyalty.
Leadership is influence – ability to earn people’s loyalty- act of having people have the feelings that they want to be led by you.
When people are loyal to you, they can go any miles for you. I have people I am loyal to, I can do anything under my capacity for them, whereas there are those, I can’t take one step for.
- Make bold decisions-
At Elephant island, Shackleton knowing they would all parish if he didn’t act fast, took a 22 and half long open boat across the world’s deadliest ocean to summon help.
It was a daring scheme.
Great leaders are not afraid of taking risks. If it’s all about playing safe nothing of significance will happen .
- Rucruiting the best-
Shackleton’s selection of the best paid off. He did not only recruit men who are best in their specialties but also men who embody character and temperament.
On their voyage to summon help, had it not been for the impeccable navigation of captain Worsley, they would have been dinner for ravenous sea monsters. How do you explain a situation where by, every degree mistake, is 60miles of latitude.
It’s for this reason the top organisations select the best talents . The 21st century has no place for mediocrity.
BY RAPHAEL ALPHA