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December 8, 2020
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December 15, 2020

Shackleton and the Endurance: A Key Lesson for Pandemic Leadership

Imagine spending 24 hours in a frigid meat locker with 26 other people.

Now imagine having to do that for 634 consecutive days during which the sprinkler system would periodically douse everyone with cold water that almost instantly turned to ice, the lights would go out for months at a time, you never had enough to eat and only a thin and often soaking-wet sleeping bag to try and stay warm in, and had no idea when, or even if, someone would ever come to unlock the door and let you out.

If you can imagine that, you will begin to have a feel for what the crew of Ernest Shackleton’s ship the Endurance endured when they were trapped by Antarctic ice in 1914-1916.

This has with good reason been called the greatest survival story of all time. Books, articles, and business school case studies have been written about leadership lessons from Shackleton’s epic, and ultimately successful, quest to save his entire crew.

As we approach the one-year mark of the coronavirus pandemic, Shackleton’s example, and the leadership practices that transformed certain disaster into miraculous success, are more relevant than ever.

More than anything else, what made Shackleton a great leader in such daunting circumstances was his ability to foster a spirit of fellowship – what he called comradeship – through the darkest days.

The methods Shackleton used can help us make it through the challenges of covid19 – in our roles as caregivers, as parents, and as leaders. These three are, I believe, of the highest importance:

Never let your people lose hope: Shackleton was realistic about the challenges faced by his team, and he did not sugarcoat that reality, but he also sustained an unshakeable faith that they would all make it through if everyone worked together.

Be present: Shackleton was always there for his people. He listened, pitched in to help with even the most menial of tasks, and immediately intervened at the first sign of pessimism or despair.

Lighten up: The crew never missed celebrating Christmas and birthdays, they played soccer and had dogsled races out on the ice, put together plays and concerts, and every Saturday evening had a toast to their wives and girlfriends – “may they never meet.” 

There is, we all hope and pray, a light at the end of the covid tunnel. But as in any marathon, the hardest miles are at the end. We must help our colleagues and family members sustain a spirit of fellowship by fostering hope and confidence, by being there for them, and by remembering to celebrate every little victory. 

Stay Strong For Us Project

The Covid19 crisis has brought out the best in caregivers in hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics around the world. It has also left many battered and exhausted – and the fight is not yet over.

That’s why Values Coach is launching the Stay Strong For Us project next month. This eBook and website will include messages of hope and encouragement from healthcare leaders and thought leaders plus great strategies for personal resilience and recovery.

We are covering the entire cost of this project – there will be no charge to organizations or individuals. If you would like to be notified when we go live simply contact me at Joe@ValuesCoach.com with Stay Strong in the subject line and I’ll take it from there.

Because we still have miles to go before we reach that light at the end of the tunnel, we need you to stay strong for us!

Everyday Courage

Courage, Perseverance, Resilience, Hope

Energize and motivate your staff with an ongoing infusion of inspirational ideas and strategies. Now, more than ever, investing in your team will help them navigate today’s challenging world with courage and determination.


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