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This case study analysis allows students to look into leadership and its application to entrepreneurship in relation to the experience of Ernest Shackleton during his 1914 Antarctic expedition. It delves into Shackleton's planning and plan-execution strategy despite issues and crisis. It discusses the leadership skills necessary during crisis management.
Nancy F. Koehn; Erica Helms; Phillip Mead
Harvard Business Review (803127-PDF-ENG)
April 03, 2003
Case questions answered:
- What are the two most important lessons that you learned from the article?
- Why are they important to you in terms of your leadership development, in particular?
- Why did Ernest Shackleton decide to take on the challenge of crossing Antarctica? Think about the reasons as you keep in mind the circumstances of the time?
- Why was Shackleton able to set out on a major project such as crossing Antarctica being the civilian he was without money or nobility? Think of the reasons.
- Why was the entire crew of the Endurance able to return home? Why was Shackleton capable of doing that? Give your own observations.
- What did you learn from this case? Think in terms of your position as a leader in modern society, a corporation, or an organization.
Not the questions you were looking for? Submit your own questions & get answers.
Case answers for Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance
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Leaders like to consider affairs in the long-term when compared to managers like to maintain the status quo. They have the vision of the future (Morrison, 2014). When Ernest Shackleton made the plan of the voyage, he considered issues from the perspective of the whole travel.
Shackleton prepared two ships for the trip because it would be a long voyage up to two or three years. One was to launch the expedition and another to provide supplementary materials for the expedition team in the second half of the trip to make sure the expedition team had enough materials to use during the trip.
Also, to avoid crew members to suffer from malnutrition and get sick on voyage due to the wrong combinations of food, Shackleton hired people to seal pills of lime juice and cooperated with a chemical expert to invent the “composition cake” for the expedition team before they depart. Shackleton liked to consider various situations and prepare everything he might need to use in advance.
Ernest Shackleton did not limit his leadership effectiveness because he demonstrated open-mindedness and personal mastery. He dared to discover new lands and faced with the gap between his desired future and his reality during the expeditions. Leaders encourage subordinates to identify and solve problems when they are open-minded as they do not set limitations or barriers to the existing challenges.
Subordinates can look for innovative solutions to the problems and break their mental models so that those subordinates will be more likely to get optimal solutions for the companies. Furthermore, leaders are aware of the difficulties that they may face in their companies so that they set realistic goals and solutions to the subordinates.
This means that leaders guide subordinates toward challenging goals that will act like challenge stressors that subordinates will appreciate. Lastly, this leads to an improvement in the employees’ job satisfaction and organizational commitment.
In the expedition team, Shackleton did not play as a hero. He acted as a humble leader (Jeanine et al., 2014). Ernest Shackleton liked to listen to others’ opinions and considered these pieces of advice by himself. When the expedition team arrived at South Georgia, local seamen suggested Shackleton wait until next year because the unprecedented scale of ice floe was too dangerous for the expedition ship.
Shackleton accepted the seamen’s suggestion and stopped there to observe the change of ice floe. Besides, to find land and a rescue ship, Shackleton was willing to make self-sacrifice, and he dared to take risks for everyone’s safety.
Ernest Shackleton is a man who has the trait of persistence, which is a good trait of leaders. This trait was seen from his journey where he had a chance of getting attacked by whales, attempting to rescue people despite the harsh weather conditions and poor body condition.
To rescue his teammates, no matter how much difficulties Shackleton encountered, he never gave up until he achieved the goal. Thus, Shackleton was a conscientious leader.
Shackleton was able to do justice by preventing unethical and counterproductive behaviors. According to Milgram’s obedience study, people would adopt unethical behavior when the authority forced them.
People are likely to go in for short gains when an opportunity presents itself instead of using self-regulation as to whether or not it will hold good for a long time or whether it could damage a potential long-term relationship.
For example, an executive in sales in food distribution lays down the cost structure in detail, providing a realistic view of company pricing, which did not allow him to get a high margin. Still, he used self-regulation behavior using an approach with integrity to preserve the long term relationship (Goleman, 2003).
Ethical and moral principles encouraged Ernest Shackleton to protect the crew members and make fair decisions about the crew’s salaries after the endurance sank. He showed a post-conventional level of moral development.
Companies require leaders that act this way to prevent counterproductive behavior that may affect the employee’s job performance and job satisfaction. Investors, customers, and companies with a relationship with Fortune 500 companies now demand that the leaders act ethically and morally correct to get win-to-win business relationships. The actual business settings require leaders to set long term goals based on ethical and moral principles.
Nowadays, companies face turbulent economic times, and they require conscientious leaders to guide their employees toward more challenging goals that help companies to survive in the new business environments. This trait of leadership exhibits integrity, which is a meaningful characteristic that supports leaders to avoid getting goals at any cost.
Conscientious leaders fit well in actual business settings. They make decisions based on solid ethical principles that will prevent companies from damaging the environment, violate laws, respect their employees, and avoid unethical behaviors with their customers, investors, and suppliers.
The fact that conscientious leaders also use their tenacity and persistence to maintain their subordinates working at good rhythm foster that the leaders distribute the company’s resources such as knowledge, money, time, the number of employees more diligently to get the desired results.
Managers like to organize employees and control them to do the task, but leaders prefer to align people and help them to grow and develop (Kotter, 1990). Every time Ernest Shackleton did a task, he aligned people according to the task, and he did not organize people. When he selected crew members for the expedition voyage, he valued crew members’ qualities of optimism and persistence very much because this voyage would be dangerous and difficult. Ernest Shackleton needed…
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