Are you an all-weather leader?

An All-Weather Leader needs exposure to all weathers – and not just the sunshine!

I would define an All-Weather Leader as someone who can survive and thrive through the full range of weather-cycles….and take people with them.

Having interviewed thousands of people, I am always both fascinated and inspired by individuals who have survived and triumphed through adversity. It is a great privilege when people openly tell their story, in a matter-of-fact way, of how they have handled and navigated through extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The quality that is most admirable is their attitude of positive resilience. By that I don’t mean a naïve, unrealistic gung-ho “everything’s okay” approach, but a view that “I am going to make the best of this in spite of the circumstances”.

It means accepting the brutal realities and then making the best response. It means making the right navigational response – the right zigzag.

Endurance-team28men

In 1914 Ernest Shackleton and his 27-strong team set off in their ship, HMS Endurance, towards the South Pole.  Their goal was to be the first to walk across the inhospitable continent of Antarctica, from shore to shore.

His expedition faced extraordinary weather conditions and setbacks. Their ship was trapped by the pack ice, immobilised and eventually crushed by it.

Their mission had failed. Now it was a matter of survival.

In his diary he said, “A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground. I pray to God, I can manage the whole party to civilisation.”

In extremis, Shackleton had to throw overboard his vision and his goals, but never his values – to care for his men. Now he had to navigate his way through to “a new mark”.

Survival was the initial objective. For almost a year their diet was seal, penguin and whale meat. They kept warm using seal blubber oil for fires and kept their spirits up by playing football on the ice shelf.

Clearly this wasn’t sustainable. Rescue became the next objective. They were stranded on Elephant Island and their nearest neighbours were 800 miles north at a remote whaling station on South Georgia Island. He decided that he and five of his men would row a small lifeboat the 800 miles to South Georgia.

With little food and water, and no medical supplies, Shackleton and his men braved the ice-packed seas. The journey from Elephant Island to the South Georgia is considered one of the greatest navigational feats in history.

After weeks, they reached South Georgia. They were forced by thirst, a broken rudder and a leaking boat to land on the uninhabited south side of the island. Realizing that the boat could take them no further they had to cross a previously unconquered, glacial mountain range to reach the whaling station.

Shackleton immediately set about to complete his new mission – to rescue the rest of his men.

On 30 August 1916 the Chilean naval tug Yelcho and the British whaler SS Southern Sky reached Elephant Island to rescue the 22 men, who had been stranded for four and a half months.

Long after the events, films and books have been written about Ernest Shackleton and his leadership qualities. He is an exemplar of being able to navigate to a “new mark”, stay true to his values and demonstrate positive resilience.

An All-Weather Leader is able to deal with the weather conditions that come their way and make the right zig and the right zag.

John Greenway

This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book – “Leaders’ Map”. It would be great to get your feedback, so please do share your comments here or on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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