Thursday, March 4, 2010

Shackleton’s Ultimate Leadership Tool Discovered – Whiskey!

Ernest Shackleton is universally known for his incredible leadership skills. However, he will now be known for another great feat…providing the world with a taste of perfectly preserved early 19th century whiskey! According to this fascinating blog article, whiskey left behind by Ernest Shackleton and his crew during their SS Nimrod expedition in Antarctica has just recently been discovered. This blast from the past might get removed from its icy grave and returned to civilization - and I’m sure it will make one heck of an expensive old fashion (the whiskey community will surely have my head for even suggesting not drinking this rare spirit neat).

Now I only jest when I say Shackleton used Whiskey as his ultimate leadership tool. While, a nice glass of scotch whiskey is a wonderful reward for a job well done…Shackleton was not one for mere carrots and sticks. According to this excellent paper from the Wharton School of Business (1st Google result for “shackleton leadership”) about the infamous Endurance expedition, Shackleton’s leadership can be nicely, but not completely, summed up with these six ideals:
  • Put your people first
  • Be flexible in tactics
  • Choose your people carefully — for character, not just competence
  • Sustain optimism in the face of adversity;
  • Lead by example
  • Strive for equal treatment

While I highly suggest you take ten minutes and read the Wharton article, I’d like to leave you with my favorite story from it. This story exemplifies how Shackleton never accepted preferential treatment and always put his men first (some of today’s leaders should take note): “When the men took to the ice and drew for sleeping bags, Shackleton somehow ensured that he and the other senior officers drew wool bags, while the more junior men got the warmer fur bags.” I’m sure Shackleton was also low man on the totem pole when it was whiskey rationing time…

What do you think Shackleton’s greatest leaderships skills were? What lessons from Shackleton have helped you be a better leader? And most importantly, how much would you pay for a taste of the manliest whiskey on the face of the planet?!


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1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, Tom! Shackleton seems like he was ahead of the times as a leader. I like the one about choosing people for character, not just competence. I've been on many job interviews and not once has a character question been asked of me--all competency based. I think that I will start to ask these types of questions of employers...