Why Leadership Matters

One leader can make a difference in any situation and any organization.

You might have seen the news this week that Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was discovered in Antarctica after sinking more than 107 years ago. Searchers found the ship 9,842 feet below the surface of the Weddell Sea on the northern coast of Antarctica.

While the discovery is considered a significant historical find, I can’t help thinking about the man behind the ship, Ernest Shackleton. He was a man who faced the ultimate leadership test and came out on top. His actions demonstrate why leadership is so important, especially when things go tragically wrong.

If you know the story, Shackleton and his crew of 27 men left England in 1914 on an expedition to cross Antarctica on foot. But the mission failed.

Five months into the journey, the Endurance became hopelessly stuck in the thick, impenetrable ice in the Weddell Sea. Nine months later, the shifting ice crushed the Endurance leaving Shackleton and his crew stranded on the ice flows.

Shackleton faced one of the most challenging leadership tests in history. Click To Tweet

With no hope for rescue, Shackleton faced one of the most challenging leadership tests in history. His mission to transit Antarctica was over, but he had a new goal – to keep his crew alive.

He led his team in the most brutal conditions on the shrinking ice pack for six months. Eventually, they reached the uninhabited and remote Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and five crew members set sail in a 23-foot-long open lifeboat to get help. They needed to travel more than 800 miles to reach the whaling stations on South Georgia island.

Shackleton and his men endured storms, heavy seas, 50 mph winds, and ice build-ups on the hull that threatened to capsize their vessel. One of his crew later said, “It was the most amazing suffering.”

Two weeks later, they reached South Georgia, where Shackleton arranged a rescue of his remaining crew on Elephant Island.

On August 30th, 1916, the remaining crew members were rescued more than two years after they left England. Every one of his crew of 27 men survived the ordeal.

Ernest Shackleton proved why one leader can make a difference. Click To Tweet

Ernest Shackleton proved why one leader can make a difference. Consider these five leadership traits Shackleton demonstrated:

He didn’t panic. He just changed the mission. When it was clear that they would no longer be able to carry out the expedition’s mission, Shackleton pivoted to a new goal of getting his men home. He made sure everyone knew the new mission.

He provided hope. By focusing on the new mission and formulating a plan to carry it out, he sparked hope in his team. Without Shackleton’s leadership, his team might have died hopelessly on that ice pack.

He took care of morale. His men faced brutal conditions with limited supplies and food. Shackleton kept things light with humor and kept his crew occupied with assigned work. He did his best to meet the needs of everyone on his crew. He knew that if morale faltered, so would their chances of survival.

He led from the front. Shackleton suffered as much if not more than his crew during those two years. He personally led the mission to South Georgia in a small open boat in the Antarctic because it provided the best chance of rescue.

He never gave up. Despite every obstacle put in his path, he never gave up. His men were motivated by his steadfast persistence.

When Shackleton was later asked about how he overcame all the challenges he faced on that ill-fated expedition, he had the most humble answer. He said, “Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.”

“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.” - Ernest Shackleton Click To Tweet

I encourage you to read more about the Endurance Expedition. One of my favorite books is Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell.

Shackleton’s story provides us with a great example of why leadership matters.

One leader can make a difference in any situation and any organization. So, the question is: What can you do today to make a difference with your team?

If you want to become a better leader, order my latest book You Have the Watch: A Guided Journal to Become a Leader Worth Following.

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[Photo credit: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and National Geographic]

Great Leaders Run Towards the Fire

Great Leaders Run Towards the Fire

This past week, the events in Eastern Europe reminded the world of what courageous leadership looks like.

The U.S. government offered to evacuate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from the besieged city of Kyiv, but he declined.

According to the Associated Press, Zelensky said, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” Click To Tweet

Instead of evacuating to safety, he chose to remain in Ukraine’s capital as Russian forces closed in. He addressed his frightened citizens from Kyiv and urged them to stay strong and united.

He reminded them, “I’m here. We won’t lay down our arms. We will defend our state.”

His actions stand in stark contrast to what we usually see from politicians. So much so that the entire world has noticed.

If you run a Google search for “Zelensky” and “leadership,” you will find hundreds of articles that news organizations have written about his bold leadership in the past several days.

Zelensky is demonstrating what it means to run to the fire. It’s a subject I have written about on my blog, and I cover it in detail in my latest leadership book, All in the Same Boat.

Great leaders lead from the front. Click To Tweet

Great leaders lead from the front.

They understand that when something threatens their organization, they run towards the danger and personally lead the efforts to attack the threat with tenacity.

These leaders know that everyone is watching them and how they respond to these challenges will set the tone for the rest of the organization.

The country of Ukraine needs strong leadership right now, and Zelensky is providing it.

The question is – what will you do the next time your company is facing a threat? Will you run away or towards the fire?

[Photo credit FACEBOOK / @Volodymyr Zelensky/A]

Faith, Family, and Fitness

2021 is nearly complete, and, in a way, I’m glad.

Despite many successes, this year has been difficult for me. As a small business owner, the supply chain issues challenged my company in a way I never anticipated.

I expected some hiccups as people returned to work from extended COVID shutdowns. Still, I never expected the delays would last as long as they did, and the costs would escalate as much.

This year tested me as a business leader, and, from what I can tell, the difficulties will continue into next year as well.

But, that’s alright. I can handle it.

How do I know?

I’m ready for the tough times.

One of the most important things I do as a leader is lead myself first. I know I have to take care of myself if I’m going to be there for my employees and my company. I have to be prepared for the hard times that will always come.

One of the most important things leaders do is lead themselves first. Click To Tweet

So, how do I do that?

For me, it’s about faith, family, and fitness. I know I need to be spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally strong to be a great leader.

Let’s start with faith. Many of you know I’m a Christian, and this year, my wife and I joined a new church. In our church, we have a community of people that love us, support us, and are there for us when things get tough.

I also start each morning in bible study and prayer. These quiet morning sessions allow me to relax my mind and contemplate the day ahead. Having faith in a God that answers prayers gives me hope and quiets my anxieties.

I’m not a perfect Christian, but I’m getting better every day.

The other thing that I rely on is family. My wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary this year. She has been with me through the best and most challenging times. I don’t take my relationship with her, my two adult sons, and my parents for granted.

I’m a present leader at home, just like at work. I make sure to be attentive to the individual needs of each of my family members, and, in return, they are there for me as well. When things aren’t going my way at work, I know I can come home to a caring, loving, and supportive environment at home.

I’m not a perfect husband, father, and son, but I’m getting better every day.

I also rely on fitness. If you follow me on social media, you know that I work out in my home gym every morning. I have been doing this for nearly ten years. These morning sessions help me work out my frustrations, move my body, and learn valuable lessons that come through slow, steady progress towards a goal.

Getting those minor victories in the gym during my morning sessions help set the tone for the rest of the day. If I can do difficult things in the gym, I can do difficult things in business and life.

If you can do difficult things in the gym, you can do difficult things in business and life. Click To Tweet

I’m not a perfect athlete, but I’m getting better every day.

As I look back on another year and look forward to a new one, I can’t say whether or not 2022 will be any easier. I know that I will be ready no matter what comes my way.

I encourage each of you to be prepared and lead yourself first.

The question is – what will you do to become spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger in the coming year?

Being strong is not optional – your role as a leader requires it.

[Photo by Sarah Medina on Unsplash]