Leadership Case Study of Ernest Shackleton

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The topic of this leadership case study is Ernest Shackleton. This paper will identify the development of Shackleton's leadership skills, provide examples and reflections of his abilities, and relate how he played an essential role in one of history's greatest survival stories. This study of Shackleton's leadership is set loosely within the framework of the five practices of exemplary leadership set forth in The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, and will focus on the benefits produced by his management of team morale and unity (13).

Kouzes and Posner remark that leadership experiences are ?voyages of discovery and adventures of a lifetime?[and] they are challenging explorations under rigorous conditions? (174). While this may be true, it is often in an extreme crisis situation that leadership is ultimately tested. This is the circumstance that Shackleton faced with his crew of twenty-seven, while stranded in the ice floes off the Antarctic Continent. Credit is due to the leadership of Ernest Shackleton; every member aboard the Endurance survived, and was finally rescued after six hundred and thirty-four days. Shackleton said of leadership, ?If you?re a leader, a fellow that other fellows look to, you?ve got to keep going? (qtd. in Morrell and Capparell 215).

Synopsis of the Endurance Expedition?See Appendix (Pages 19-21)

The Endurance, the vessel carrying the men and the title of the expedition, was named by Shackleton after his family motto?Fortitudine Vincimus (By endurance we conquer) (Perkins 41). To relate the significant factors of Shackleton?s leadership during the Endurance expedition, it is necessary to summarize the timeline of the events. A chronological timeline of the expedition is included at the end of this paper.

The saga of the Endurance has relevant lessons for today?s leaders concerning the vital nature of team unity and interdependence, risk taking, optimism, and selfless leadership. Shackleton, known as ?The Boss? to his men, was at all times responsible for fostering and developing these dynamics, and thus provides an example of the remarkable achievements that are possible in even the direst of situations. The expedition failed in its attempt to be the first to transverse the Antarctic, yet the ultimate success is judged by the safe return of all the crewmembers.

The events of the Endurance expedition wer...

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... all his leadership strategies for the purpose of getting every man home alive.

The loyalty and trust that Shackleton inspired in his men is undeniable. In 1921, five years after the rescue, Shackleton set out again on his last expedition aboard the Quest. Remarkably, his eighteen-member crew was comprised of eight Endurance colleagues, including Wild and Worsley (Morrell and Capparell 208). Following Shackleton?s death, Wild summed up the feelings he had for his leader:

I have served with Scott, Shackleton, and Mawson, and have met Nansen, Amundsen, Peary, Cook, and other explorers, and in my considered opinion, for all the best points of leadership, coolness in the face of danger, resource under difficulties, quickness in decisions, never-failing optimism, and the faculty of instilling the same into others, remarkable genius for organization, consideration for those under him, and obliteration of self, the palm must be given to Shackleton, a hero and a gentleman in very truth.

--Frank Wild, crew member, Nimrod;

second in command, Endurance and Quest.

(qtd. in Morrell and Capparell 205)
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