Henry Worsley and Ernest Shackleton are related by more than blood. They are related by their souls. A distant relative, Frank Worsley had accompanied Shackleton on his Antarctic expeditions, including the abortive Nimrod expedition where Shackleton had tried and failed to reach the South Pole coming with 90 miles of reaching his goal until he and his two-man team turned back. Inspired by this event, Henry Worsley and two other men successfully walked unaided to the South Pole and back in 2008-2009.

Shackleton is of course much more famous for his Endurance expedition, which one of the legendary 3-year (1914-1917) trip to the Antarctic where his crew was stranded on the ice; Shackleton and a few companions traveled some 800 miles in an open boat to the South Georgia Island whaling station to obtain a rescue craft. He then returned to the Antarctic and rescued all the men who have been stranded.

Both men provided some interesting leadership lessons from their experiences. Henry Worsley’s journey to the South Pole was recently chronicled in the New Yorker in a piece by David Grann entitled, “THE WHITE DARKNESS-A solitary journey across Antarctica”. Henry Worsley became interested in Shackleton as a child, marveled by his stories of exploring and adventure. For most of his life he was in the British Army, becoming a member of the elite Special Action Services (SAS). After his retirement, he met Shackleton’s grand-daughter who introduced him to Will Gow, the great-nephew of Shackleton who wanted to recreate the trek to the South Pole. They were joined by another relative of the Nimrod expedition Henry Adams who was the great-grandson of the Nimrod expedition’s second in command, Jameson Boyd Adams.

Together the three men trained in Artic treks and cold weather situations for several years, while fund raising for their own expedition. This training regimen was couple with meticulous planning for their trek. Each man was required to haul a sled weighing some 300 pounds across the ice. Henry Worsley’s pack was emblazoned with two phrases, “Always a little further” and “By Endurance we Conquer”. Henry Worsley drew the following leadership lessons from Shackleton, “His optimism and patience. That the welfare of his men governed all his decision making. His courage. The hope he instilled in others. His romanticism. His ability to hold a team together in adversity. His recognition of the qualities of Frank Wild and his choice to make him his second in command. The depth of affection and respect that his crew members (from all expeditions) had for him. That he never gave up on fulfilling dreams. But above all I believe that in times of deep trouble, when lives were at risk, he was able to instill in his men the confidence that he would get them out of the desperate situation they were in, because nothing was more important to him than their welfare.” The three were able to accomplish their goal by safely trekking across the ice to the South Pole and back.

Shackleton is best known for his Antarctic expeditions failures. In addition to the Nimrod and Endurance expeditions, he was also the failed first South Pole trek by Robert Falcon Scott on 1901. According to Cathy Graham, writing in Workplace Navigator in an article entitled, “7 Characters of Leadership I Learned From Sir Ernest Shackleton” the tale of “how 28 men survived for 21 months after the ship was beset in the ice floes of Antarctica”, in sub-freezing temperatures, no digital equipment, not even a radio, numerous physical obstacles, including climbing for 36 hours over uncharted mountains without climbing gear, in one chock full of leadership lessons for today’s business leader. She noted seven lessons.

  1. Honesty.
  2. Diverse Team.
  3. Be Decisive.
  4. Inclusive.
  5. Delegate.
  6. Improvise.
  7. Keep the Faith.

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