Leadership – Antarctic style

 Scott's Expedition at the South Pole, January 18, 1912 L to R: Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Edgar Evans, Robert Scott, Lawrence Oates

Visiting schools and speaking to Head Teachers is one of the pleasures of my job.

This morning I met with Patricia McCall, HT Campie Primary School. Patricia gave me a great insight into her own perspective on leadership by referring to one of her great interests – Antarctic Exploration.

Her hero is Roald Amunden, the first person to reach the South Pole and in so doing beating Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

Perhaps this extract explains why:

The fact remains that Amundsen’s expedition benefited from good equipment, appropriate clothing, a fundamentally different appreciation of its primary task, an understanding of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis. He pioneered an entirely new route to the Pole and they returned. In Amundsen’s own words:

“I may say that this is the greatest factor — the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”
–from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen.

Whereas, Scott gloried in being the enthusiastic amateur, who went at the task in a gung ho and cavalier manner without proper regard for the safety of his men.

Patricia’s third Antarctic leadership figure was Ernest Shackelton, who, although in many ways similar to Scott, differed in that he was driven by a deep concern for his men and the desire to “get his people home”.

The three leadership types then are:

  1. Amundsen – professional; democratic; careful preparation; attention to detail; foreseeing difficulties; planning for eventualities.
  2. Scott – status conscious; dictatorial; unaware of differing abilities; ego driven; careless attitude towards his men; unwilling to engage in detailed planning. 
  3. Shackleton – Much in common with Scott but committed to looking after his men – regardless of any personal cost to himself.

 I enjoyed the lesson.