Endurance of a Leader

The Voyage of  Sir Ernest Shackleton – Great leaders remain focused on achieving victory even when the odds are against them.
By Jerry LePre

Ernest_ShackletonOnce Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen won the race to the South Pole in 1911, Sir Ernest Shackleton started planning his expedition to lead the first team to cross the continent of Antarctica from sea to sea. This was a 1,800-mile journey.

After months of planning and fund raising, Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was ready to begin its historic journey. Unfortunately, in the end, the original goal of the expedition was not achieved.

Regardless, when all of the details of his expedition are considered, Shackleton was not a failure. In fact, his leadership during the harsh circumstances and extreme challenges of the journey is now considered as one of the greatest survival and heroic achievements of the 20th century.

Shackleton along with 27 men set sail in December of 1914 on a ship appropriately named Endurance. Due to unusually harsh winter conditions, the wooden ship was trapped by ice as it entered the Weddell Sea near the South Pole.

Eventually, the vessel was crushed by floes. Using wood salvaged from the Endurance, Shackleton instructed the crew to build a camp on the ice and rationed the food and clothing.

About 15 months later, open water was located and Endurance’s three lifeboats were launched with the crew. Miraculously, they all landed safely on uninhabited Elephant Island. Once the crew was secured, Shackleton and five men set sail in one of the lifeboats to seek help. After a 650 nautical mile voyage, they reached the uninhabited side of South Georgia Island.

Frostbitten and in rags, he then led two of his men over 26 miles of treacherous mountains and glaciers to reach a whaling station on the other side of the island. This journey marked the first overland crossing of the landmass.

Three months after his departure from Elephant Island, Shackleton returned to rescue his remaining crew. Not one man was lost. As an explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton did not achieve his original goal. Nonetheless, he did not lose his vision of leadership. He overcame physical hardships and extreme mental challenges to keep his men focused on the vision of returning home.

Even when the mission changed, his vision of leadership did not. After several months, his vision to return the entire crew safely home was achieved.

From the book ‘Go the Extra Yard: Empower the Champion within You / 7 Keys to Victory for the Game of Life’ by Jerry LePre.

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