Monday, 24 August 2009


I’ve found a new hero this sabbatical – Ernest Shackleton, the great Antarctic explorer.

Sir Ernest Shackleton has been described as ‘the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none’ for saving the lives of the twenty-seven men stranded with him on an Antarctic ice floe for almost two years. [i] Ironically, and this is why Shackleton can be such an inspirational mentor, he failed to reach nearly every goal he ever set:

· He failed as part of a three man team to reach the South pole in 1902.

· He failed leading his own team six years later a heartbreaking 97 miles short of the Pole, but only after realising it would mean certain starvation for his team to carry on.

· He failed in his 1914-1916 Endurance expedition. He lost his ship before even touching Antarctica.

His story is no glorification of failure and there are plenty of ‘successes’ and he ‘failed only at the improbable; he succeeded at the unimaginable’. [ii]

Only recently has Shackleton become to be regarded as an example of what it takes to be a great leader and three of the reasons why I believe his example has so much to teach us apart from being a great true adventure story, are:

i. In a rapidly changing world he was always willing to venture in new directions to seize new opportunities and learn new skills.

ii. He learnt most about success through failure.

iii. He invested so much in other people.

The main source of my reading has been ‘Shackleton’s Way’ by Margot Morrell & Stephanie Capparell which combines his story with application.

[i] Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell, Shackleton’s Way, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2001, p1.

[ii] Ibid., p1.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I'm with you on this one Nigel, it's an inspiring book, isn't it?

Be rude to mention Liverpool's result against Villa, so I won't. :)