Earnest Shackleton: Moral Challenge Earnest Shackleton, leader of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition showed great moral leadership in the choosing, leading and ultimate saving of his crew of 27 men. Shackleton led his men with strength and respect. He had a great ability to showcase the strength of individual men, while leading them as a team. In choosing his crew, he not only looked at the work that they would do, but also how they would interact with the rest of the men. In the most trying of circumstances.
Once it became apparent that the original goal of the mission was lost, Shackleton kept his crew working together towards the common goal of survival. Shackleton shows great leadership using six fundamental leadership traits: “Planning, Team Building, Flexibility, Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Lead by Example. ” (Harris 21) Even as a child, Shackleton was seen as both a strong leader and an empathetic friend. A classmate recalled that Shackleton had “beaten up a schoolyard bully who had been picking on a smaller boy.
From an early age, Shackleton gravitated to the role of protector, stepping up to the front to insist on fair play. ” (Morrell and Capparell, 17) Shackleton has a history of putting his men above the goal. In 1907, he was 97 miles from the South Pole when he turned back in order to return his party safely back to the ship. This ability to both lead and protect would prove to be invaluable in the Trans-Antarctic expedition. Shackleton plans his expedition carefully. He is aware of the environment and conditions, having been on expeditions in the Antarctic and to the South Pole in the past.
He overstocks on provisions to keep his men fed and stimulated. There was food, books, music and the best equipment available at the time, including rations to prevent scurvy and specially designed tents. Shackleton only takes risks when necessary and when lives were at stake. “He often referred to himself as “Old Cautious” and took pleasure when his men called him the same. ” (Morrell and Capparell, 34) “Shackleton built the crew list around a nucleus of tested veterans. ” (Lansing, 16) These included men who had been with him in expeditions to the Antarctic with Scott (1901, 1910-1911) or the race to the pole (1908-1909).
Other crew members were chosen with their personalities and ability to work together in mind. Shackleton hired a meteorologist with practically no qualifications for the position, simply because he thought that he “looked funny” and had recently returned from an expedition to the Sudan. One surgeon was hired in part because he joked about wearing glasses. Another was asked if he was good natured and if he could sing. “Despite the instantaneous nature of these decisions, Shackleton’s intuition of selecting compatible men rarely failed. (Lansing, 17) Shackleton shows an ability to change his tactics and goals during the course of the expedition. At the start, he is focused on the goal of a trans-Antarctic crossing. When it becomes apparent that the Endurance is locked in ice and the crossing will not happen, he focuses on the immediate need to survive the upcoming Antarctic winter. “He was careful, however, not to betray his disappointment to the men, and he cheerfully supervised the routine of readying the ship for the long winter’s night ahead. (Lansing, 34) Once it is determined that the ship is being crushed, the focus lies on moving to, and surviving on, the ice floe. As the ice is breaking up, Shackleton sets his sights on land. The unpredictable winds and currents are what finally determine the choice of Elephant Island.
His men call him “boss”. This shows a sense of familiarity – they don’t feel that they need to call him Captain Shackleton, but also respect for his position and that they look to him as their leader. Shackleton shows a great skill in talking to his crew so that they work well together. When Vincent, a member of the crew tries to gain advancement through the use of tyranny, Shackleton listens to the complaints of the other crewmembers, speaks to Vincent privately and the behavior is corrected. It is not known what was said, but the attitude was improved.
This shows an ability to both manage a potential bad situation, but also to do it privately so that Vincent is not reprimanded in front of his co-workers. Shackleton seeks the advice and opinions of the crew when determining a course of action, allowing them to have a say in the decision. However, when it comes time to make the decision, Shackleton takes full ownership and sees it through. Conflicts were bound to arise during the course of the expedition and Shackleton used a variety of means to avoid or end the conflicts in a timely manner.
Knowing the personalities of his crew was an asset. Shackleton knew that Hurley had an ego that needed to be stroked and included him in many of the high level meetings to prove that he was important to the expedition. Certain crew members were more negative and prone to cause problems. “In their tents on the ice, Shackleton ensured that the ability of such “bad actors” to erode morale was checked by having them reside in Shackleton’s own tent or Wild’s tent. ” (Chappell, 2) Shackleton leads by example.
He does not take special privileges for himself and often works harder than his men. He is the first one up and the last one to sleep – often staying up to watch the ice and the currents so that his men can rest. Shackleton also leads the final crew in the more than 700 mile trip from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island. He shows a positive attitude at all times, which keeps his crew optimistic as they work together to survive. This is no small feat as he is responsible for 27 lives and has to give up the main goal of the expedition, which was to cross the Antarctic.
Shackleton never gives up. Even after he reaches the whaling station on South Georgia Island, he does not wait for a ship to be delivered to rescue his men. As he has done the entire journey, he uses the resources available until he is able to meet his goal of bringing his entire crew back to safety and civilization. I believe that Shackleton shows moral leadership in that he is more concerned for his crew than he is for himself and his reputation as an explorer.
Instead of following Scott’s example of meeting the original goal, he considers the consequences of losing his crew and chooses life over glory. Scott ruled by brute force an intimidation. He refused to look beyond his goals and while he did reach the South Pole, he also lost his life and the lives of his crew in the process. Shackleton showed a respect for others his entire life and this did not change when he became a leader of expeditions. He turned back from the South Pole in 1909 because he felt that reaching his goal would sacrifice his crew.
During the Endurance expedition he sets the goal for survival and rescue and sees it through to the end. No lives were lost and his crew shows respect and obedience to “the boss” throughout. Endurance scholar Caroline Alexander says that the crew had a saying about Sir Earnest: “For scientific discovery give me Scott. For speed and efficiency give me Amundsen. But when you’re in a hopeless case and disaster strikes, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton. ” Works Cited Lansing, Alfred. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage.
New York: Carroll and Graf, 1959. Harris, Michael. “Leadership in a Time of Crisis: The Shackleton Way. ” E Academic Affairs, 2003: 14-28. Jan 15, 2012. http://www. iuk. edu/chancellor/assets/pdf/leadership-in-a-time-of-crisis. pdf Morrell, Margo and Capparell, Stephanie. Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer. New York: Viking Penguin, 2001. Chappell, Charles. “Shackleton’s Leadership of the Endurance Expedition. ” Wharton Executive MBA Program, Class of 2001. Pages 1-5