A bold vision is vital in a changing landscape
Some of you may have heard of the explorer, Ernest Shackleton, who led an expedition to the Antarctic in 1914 on the ship the Endurance. His vision was an attempt to make the first 2000 mile land crossing of the Antarctic continent. This would be an unprecedented feat, but the pursuit of it inspired passion and perseverance from both Shackleton and his team.
Leaders in modern-day organisations face different but equally unprecedented challenges. Besides having to cope with pandemics they are expected to lead leaner teams with flatter structures in dispersed locations. To achieve this, they need to keep the rising demands of their workers’ personal aspirations satisfied. They also have to flex their teams to become high performing in the face of environmental concerns, greater competition and technological innovations.
Like modern-day Shackleton’s, today’s leaders have to adapt to a changing landscape to reach challenging organisational goals. Organisations need bold visions to aim for in order to stretch their organisations to new paradigms. Leaders need to lead their teams through unchartered territory to get there.
The way you lead is more important than the challenges you face
What strikes me most about Shackleton is that he was a great role model. Whilst Shackleton had his faults, his struggles and self –awareness helped him improve along the way. He didn’t reach his ultimate goal – his ship the Endurance struck ice and later sank, but Shackleton managed to lead his team to safety and all survived.
He achieved the impossible despite everything he had encountered. He adapted his leadership style to meet new challenges and created a loyal, productive and cohesive team. His leadership methods subsequently earned him worldwide acclaim.
He proved that even though leaders may face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the way we lead can result in other, more sustainable outcomes for the survival of the individuals, teams and ultimately – the organisation.
Leaders can be imperfect and still be inspiring
Ernest Shackleton the explorer wasn’t a perfect leader when he set out to lead an ambitious Antarctic expedition. He inspired others to stick with him even when their ship sank and the teams were dispersed living on the floating ice for months. He adapted his leadership style to meet the unprecedented demands that the external changes thrust upon him and his team. He made mistakes, but he was willing to learn from them.
He was passionate about creating a shared vision with his team and determined to live the values he wanted them all to demonstrate. He harnessed each person’s unique talents and fostered trust by listening to their ideas. He didn’t mind looking for different ways of solving problems and changed direction when he needed to.
Shackleton shows us that we don’t need to be perfect leaders; we just need to be willing to evolve.
Resilience comes from being internally motivated
Shackleton the polar explorer persevered even when his ship sank. His vision of walking across the Antarctic had to be abandoned and he had to journey 1200 miles in a small boat in stormy seas to get help. Despite extreme hardship and danger, he persevered and led his team to safety.
Coping with adversity helped Shackleton and his team adapt to external pressures. In most organisations, some aspects of Political, Economic, Societal, Technological, Environment and Legal factors might be out of leaders’ direct control.
Inner coping mechanisms such as looking after ourselves, maintaining positivity, knowing when to ask for help and self-awareness helps us meet the demands we face. The more we can adapt and grow, the greater likelihood we have of helping our teams survive and thrive. Resilience is a key part of a leader’s healthy adaptation to uncontrollable circumstances.