Worsley relates the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's doomed expedition to the Antarctic in 1914-16 and its subsequent/incredible rescue: "after HMS Endurance became stuck in Antarctic ice packs and then sank into the Weddell Sea, its twenty-five crew members were forced to launch three lifeboats and sail, in miserable conditions, for barren Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton, Frank Worsley (captain of the Endurance), and four others set off in the largest of the lifeboats to seek help eight hundred miles away at the whaling stations on the island of South Georgia."
Ernest Shackleton was a man determined to succeed in his attempt to cross Antarctica on foot. His mission failed, as documented by Frank Worsley in Endurance, and yet Shackleton is hailed as a hero and deemed one of the most remarkable leaders of the 20th century. As Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell state in Shackleton’s Way, he “was an average person [who] taught himself how to be an exceptional one. He rose above his peers and earned the unfailing loyalty of his men…[he unleashed] strengths in individuals that they never knew they had in order to achieve goals—from the small to the miraculous” (10-11).
The following are some of Shackleton’s leadership qualities that allowed all members of the Endurance’s crew to survive. Try to find examples of each as you read Endurance.
1) He recognized the importance of and always boosted the morale of his crew.
2) He made himself available to his crew – he knew how to connect and speak with everyone, and he was a careful, thoughtful listener.
3) He was bold in his plans, but cautious in their execution – he paid close attention to detail. He wasn’t afraid to change his mind or his plans as the situation dictated.
4) He was optimistic and realistic – he understood the gravity of the situation with the Endurance, but he remained confident that he would find a way to overcome it.
5) He knew how to have fun– relaxation and entertainment were critical parts of the ship’s schedule.
6) He led by example – he never asked anyone to do work he wouldn’t do himself, and so he was able to get the best from each individual on the crew.