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He has been called "the greatest leader
that ever came on God's earth, bar none..." 

Shackleton’s Leadership Practices

Shipwrecked in Antarctica, Sir Ernest Shackleton faced many of the problems encountered by today’s leaders.  With limited resources, he helped a varied group of people work toward a common goal.  He dealt with naysayers, worriers, the disgruntled and bored, brought order to chaos and successfully led his crew through a grueling two-year ordeal.  

Leading by Example:

  • Put the team’s needs ahead of his own.

  • Was very visible in the workplace; took on the hardest jobs himself.  Never asked anyone to work harder than he did.

  • Stayed calm in crises.

  • Modeled the behavior and attitude he wanted his team to adopt.

  • In the face of changing circumstances, kept his plans flexible and backed up his goals with meticulous planning.  He always had more than one contingency plan.


Communicating Effectively:

  • Made sure his team had a realistic assessment of the situation.

  • Forged strong bonds with his men through personal, casual, one-on-one conversations.

  • During crises, he communicated to the whole crew as a group.

  • Offered a plan of action, asked for their support, and reassured them of his faith in a positive outcome.

  • Asked for opinions and advice – everyone had a voice – although he made the final decisions.

  • Communicated his expectations clearly.



Keeping Up Morale:

  • Established an orderly routine that kept everyone productive doing meaningful work.

  • Created a sense of community and camaraderie, he encouraged people to work together.

  • Never chastised anyone in public. He focused on fixing problems, not on

        punishing people. He praised his crew-members easily and often.

  • Looked for opportunities to create pleasant surprises and celebrations, and  built relaxation and entertainment into the daily schedule.


Maintaining a Positive Attitude:

  • Recognized the power of optimism and said it was “true moral courage.”

  • Insisted on optimism from his crew.

  • Faced new circumstances and challenges as adventures – not as obstacles.

  • Monitored the pessimists closely to contain their effect on the rest of the group.

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