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Leading through a Disaster

Picture 28 haggard, exhausted men standing on an ice-floe. They are hundreds of miles from civilization. There is no hope of rescue. They watch in silence as their shattered ship sinks to the bottom of the sea.

One man described the scene, "It gave one a sickening sensation to see it, for even mast-less and useless as she was, she was still a welcome landmark and a link to civilization. Without her, our destitution seems more acute; our isolation more complete.

It was going to take an extraordinary leader to get them through the ordeal that lay ahead. Fortunately, they had that leader in Shackleton.

That day as the men watched Endurance sink, Shackleton stood slightly apart from the rest. He later confided to Frank Wild, his able second-in-command, that it was the saddest moment of his life.

But when the ship finally disappeared, he turned around and seeing the worried faces of his crew, he said to them. "So, now we'll go home."

In that one short sentence, he gave them a goal and a vision. He redirected their attention away from the painful scene in front of them toward a positive outcome. And, most importantly, he communicated to them his own optimism.

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