By Dick Stark
Last December I wrote about Jim Collins’ latest book Great by Choice where concepts like 10Xers, 20 Mile March, Fire Bullets, then Cannon Balls, and SMaC are introduced. In 2012 RightStar is focusing on 20 Mile Marching (slow and steady growth) and SMaC (Specific, Methodological, and Consistent) operating principles and practices like “project management for every project.”
To refresh, the 20 Mile March concept is based in part on the race to the South Pole in 1911 between Scott and Amundsen. Amundsen, a “20 mile per dayer” methodically planned the entire trip making progress every single day. He made it to the South Pole within a day or two of his plan and returned safely home also as planned. Scott did not plan with the worst case scenario in mind, did not have enough food stockpiled, and did not 20 Mile March. He did not make it back.
Just last week I reread Alfred Lansing’s Endurance, a book about Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 quest to cross by foot the entire Antarctica continent. Coincidently, Shackleton was a member of Scott’s first 1901 successful expedition to march halfway to the South Pole. The major difference–Shackleton was a 20 Mile Marcher.
The irony is that on this attempt, Shackleton never made it to the Antarctica continent. When he was within a day of landing, his ship the Endurance, and his 27 crewmen became locked in an island of ice. The Endurance is an amazing story of survival as miraculously everyone survived the 17 month ordeal. But it is also a story of leadership because it was Shackleton’s courage and conviction that made the difference. Here are several leadership examples that I took away from the story:
- Responsibility. Shackleton had a deep sense of responsibility for everyone. His mission when marooned on the ice, was to return every man safely home.
- Unbridled optimism. When the Endurance broke apart on the ice, hundreds of miles from land in the Antarctic winter with no chance of rescue, one might start to feel the situation was hopeless…. It was Shackleton’s enthusiasm that kept the men going.
- Never quit attitude. Shackleton, “set men’s souls on fire.” Just to be in his presence was an experience.
- No special treatment. Remember this was 1914, and Shackleton was one of England’s most respected explorers. More than 5000 men applied for the 27 open crew positions. Yet, Shackleton wanted to be treated like anyone else and afforded himself no special privileges.
- Not a big risk taker. While planning a voyage to cross Antarctica was undoubtedly a very risky proposition, Shackleton carefully considered and planned every option once the Endurance became stranded. For example, he and his men had an exact and practiced escape plan should the ice flow they were stranded on break apart.
I encourage everyone to read the Endurance, which is one of the best adventure and leadership books I’ve ever read. Like Shackleton, let’s continue to 20 Mile March in 2012!