The golden age of polar exploration lasted from about 1895 to 1912 during which time explorers reached both the North Pole and the South Pole. Yet even today their explorations and expeditions raise admiration and even awe. In this episode, we discuss the race to the South Pole and what leadership lessons may be drawn from it. The three principals we discuss in this episode are Englishmen Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundson.

Of these three men, Shackleton turned back some 90 miles from the Pole, Scott made it to the South Pole some 35 days after Amundsen and died on the return leg, with all his men. Only Amundsen made it to the South Pole and returned to tell the tale. In this episode we explore:

  • Leaders need a clear strategic focus;
  • Leaders need to be open to innovation;
  • Leaders need to rely on their team members (you don’t have to do it all); and
  • Leaders should forge team bonds.

The Final Word

Perhaps the final word should come from Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a member of Scott’s second expedition, who made the following observation: “For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott. . . for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen: if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time.”