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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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