It is at times of crisis and uncertainty that true leadership reveals itself. In the midst of our current crisis related to the Coronavirus, we are all looking to Washington, DC, community leaders, pastors, employers, etc…for confidence and leadership.
Sir Ernest Shackleton has been referred to as, “The greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none.” But you may be asking, “Who is Sir Ernest Shackleton”? Shackleton was an explorer who set out on an expedition in the early 1900’s to transverse the continent of Antarctica from sea to sea. But disaster struck when his ship became stuck in ice. What happened next defined Shackleton as one of the greatest leaders of all time. His exploits and actions have been analyzed and applied by great leaders – including the commander of Apollo 13.
I challenge you to read up on his amazing life in books like Shackleton’s Way, by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell, but for the sake of this blog, let me give you the 30,000 ft view and reveal one characteristic of his leadership that I believe is imperative for you and I to apply during this time of crisis.
After Shackleton’s ship – The Endurance – became stuck in ice (and eventually crushed before sinking to the bottom of the sea), he moved the crew off the ship, and they camped on the sea ice. When temperatures warmed and the sea ice began to disintegrate, he launched the crew in the lifeboats they had salvaged from The Endurance toward Elephant Island, and ultimately to South Georgia Island – a voyage of some 830 miles through some of the most dangerous seas known to man. He began the expedition with 27 men and himself. After a roughly two-year nightmare that included being stranded on a sinking boat, living on an ice camp, and two unbelievably harrowing voyages, Shackleton was able to say that every man survived.
There are many things that made Shackleton an amazing leader, but for those of you who find yourself leading in such a time as this, I want to recount one thing his men pointed out when asked about his leadership. They noted that “nothing ever got him down”. They recalled him staying upbeat in the midst of each horrific challenge that occurred.
Shackleton required that his men keep a diary and write out their thoughts and feelings on the expedition. As you can imagine, there was a substantial amount of doom and gloom in those writings. After all, they were stuck at the bottom of the world with no means of communication. In their minds, the longer this went on, the less people would even search for them. In the midst of their negative daily entries in their diaries, they would marvel at Shackleton’s positive attitude. It literally kept them going. Now here is the interesting part, and the one lesson I want you to learn and implement - Shackleton also kept a diary, and that diary wasn’t always optimistic. He often wondered in his writings if they would survive – but they never knew that.
Did you see it? Here is the thing that stands out to me about this amazing man. Though he had doubts, he chose not to voice them – realizing that his men needed a leader of confidence to look to. You have a choice to make. Your people (children, spouse, employees, friends, parents, etc…) also need a leader of confidence to which they can look. Be that leader! Encourage and lift up those around you – more now than ever. We may not be able to see the end yet of this crisis, but there will be one. When that time comes, make sure that your positive attitude and encouragement made you part of the solution, and not part of the problem. Blessings!