Endurance by Alfred Lansing

Monday, May 21, 2012

It is hard not to wrap your blankets a bit tighter around yourself when reading about the incredible voyage of Ernest Shackleton and his crew in 1914.  The title of this book, and name of the ship, captures in one word what it took for the twenty eight members of this Antarctic-bound vessel to survive over 400 days stranded, for the majority of the time, on large pieces of floating ice.  

The original intent of the trip was to traverse Antarctica, arriving with the Endurance on one side of the continent.  From there the crew would have crossed the land mass on dog sleds where upon completion a second ship would have been awaiting them.  They never made it to Antarctica but were instead trapped by a pack of ice which brought the journey to halt and continued to slowly crush the ship itself.  They were forced to abandon the ship and remain on the ice until being able to set sail on smaller boats to the nearest land mass 850 miles away.  What ensues is nothing less than incredible. 

Boredom and wetness.  To overcome these two feats were to me there most incredible accomplishment.  When I find myself without an umbrella or enough bedding at night, I will only have to say "Endurance".

The perseverance of the crew warrants praise as does the leadership ability of their captain.  Leadership provides order when without it chaos would exist.   What continued to emerge throughout was how the men remained positive and loyal to their captain in a place where no laws, rules, or codes really existed any longer.

From Shackelton, I learned the following about being an effect leader (at least when stranded on a floe of ice):

1.  Know the weak traits of those in your organization and have measures in place to prevent them from diffusing further.

2.  Manage moral.  Without it you can not face adversity in a group.

3.  Scrutanize your decisions but once they are made do not second guess yourself - at least not publicly.

4.  A dominating presence is not a prerequisite for a leader.    


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