"MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON"
So read the ad placed by legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton for what was to become one of the most harrowing and remarkable survival adventures of all time.
Almost a century ago it was the golden age of exploration. Shackleton's goal was to do what no one had done before: To walk across Antarctica from coast to coast.
In one of the worst Antarctic winters ever, his boat was trapped in the ice and crushed to bits. He and dozens of his men were stranded on pack ice, drifting aimlessly in the wild southern seas. They had no chance of rescue, little food, and almost no hope of survival.
It was a year and a half of vicious weather, near-starvation, oceans of ice, endless mountains and glaciers. perilous and frigid journeys over water in tiny open boats.
Shackleton was a leader, not a manager.
Under his leadership his crew overcame the unimaginable fear and desperation that can only strike men who believe they are lost forever to die in a frozen wasteland, far from home.
Shackleton never reached Antarctica, but he saved his crew and led them home.
Every single man.
He responded in the moment to crises as they arose, never imagining they didn't exist or wishing them away. He never asked his men to do something he wouldn't do himself. And most important, he endured. He never gave up:
Boat crushed in ice? No problem – we'll camp on the ice. Pack ice disappearing? No problem, we'll sail to the nearest island? No chance of rescue? No problem – happy to sail 800 miles using dead reckoning over 17 days in some of the world's worst seas. Land on the wrong side of the island? No problem – we'll just go over it. Every time – he simply asked himself – What's the right thing to do here? And then he did it.
Why do I tell this story?
Because this is the type of leader every radio group needs.
The type who can adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and do so effectively.
The type who sees the environment for what it is and responds accordingly. Not the type who imagines troubles away with a nifty spin and a fresh press release.
The type who recognizes that a changing environment requires changing strategies. Not the same old thing with fewer people wearing more hats.
The type who views his or her crew as the key to survival, not pawns in a cost-cutting death spiral.
The type who never gives up. For the sake of the audiences and clients and employees, all.
As billings sink, great leaders ask themselves: "What's the right thing to do here?"