Sir Ernest Shackleton has been called “the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none” for saving the lives of the twenty-seven men stranded with him in the Antarctic for almost two years. Today the public can’t get enough of this once-forgotten explorer, and his actions have made him a model for great leadership and masterful crisis management. Now, through anecdotes, the diaries of the men in his crew, and Shackleton’s own writing, Shackleton’s leadership style and time-honored principles are translated for the modern business world. Written by two veteran business observers and illustrated with ship photographer Frank Hurley’s masterpieces and other rarely seen photos, this practical book helps today’s leaders follow Shackleton’s triumphant example.The explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton has recently become the legendary character at the center of a renewed fascination with the early days of Antarctic exploration. Though not the most renowned explorer of his day, nor even the most successful in terms of stated goals, Shackleton’s story of adventurous ambition, incredible endurance, and heroic survival against all odds is indeed the stuff of legend. And now, thanks to the detailed research and helpful insights of Morrell and Capparell, his story is also the meaty material of lessons on how to lead with authority, integrity, humor, and compassion.
A British explorer once summarized the feats of the great Antarctic explorer like this: “For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott; for a winter journey, give me Wilson, for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen; and if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time.” His words set the tone for Shackleton’s Way, at once both a travel narrative and a handbook of the skills required for effective leadership of diverse groups, especially in times of change and crisis. Shackleton’s attempts to reach the South Pole and his two-year fight for the survival of his crew, when their ship is stranded in ice and then sunk, makes for exciting reading. Using this story as the centerpiece of their book, the authors have woven in their interpretation of his success using interviews with exceptional modern leaders such as Mike Dale, Jaguar’s former chief of North American operations, and Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell, and by offering useful advice points at the end of each chapter. For example, in the chapter entitled “The Path to Leadership,” Shackleton is shown to have been a well-read man, eager to learn and able to mix with varied company. The authors support this by noting that broadening one’s horizons and learning to see things from different perspectives will allow for greater flexibility in problem solving. U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig agrees that a level of well roundedness is vital in leaders, acknowledging that “one of my prime aims in distributing books is to get people to think outside themselves and to think broadly.”
Morrell and Capparell’s excellent use of archival material (especially crew diaries) and their intelligent interpretation of what Shackleton’s story implies about good leaders makes this book both pleasurable and educational. Throughout the story of the explorer’s exploits, the authors have inserted summarizing subtitles that succinctly capture Shackleton’s leadership style. Occasionally, this seems a little strained; while the explorer’s progressive attitudes and actions deserve praise as leadership lessons par excellence, even some of his misjudgments are referred to with something approaching reverence. For the most part, however, the authors employ a subtle and effective hand in translating the actions of a man at the helm of a dangerous adventure into advice beneficial to leaders in all areas of life. —S. Ketchum
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