Leading at the Edge

Two things I absolutely love when it comes to books: Leadership & history. Which makes Dennis N.T. Perkins book Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antartic Expedition (kindle version) a book that I was really excited to read. Even more excited to get it free from the publisher, so thank you for that.

Here’s a short synopsis of the book:

Of all epic adventures with against-the-odds survival, few rival the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team of Antarctic explorers. On December 5, 1914, Shackleton and 27 men sailed into the Southern Ocean with an ambitious goal: the first overland crossing of Antarctica. 45 days later, disaster struck. Ice closed around their ship, the Endurance. For nearly 2 years, the members of the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition were stranded in the frozen sea. They endured hazards, hunger, isolation, bone-chilling cold, and prolonged darkness. The explorers stayed committed to working together with cohesion and camaraderie and all 27 men survived.
In Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, SECOND EDITION (AMACOM; March 29, 2012), Dennis N.T. Perkins presents Shackleton as a model of outstanding leadership against formidable obstacles — a model for all leaders in today’s turbulent business climate and world of rampant risk and uncertainty.
As Perkins explains, “The Edge” is a concept with two dimensions: the Survival Edge, the limits of human endurance, and the Performance Edge, the pinnacle of individual, team, and organizational potential. Throughout the book, Perkins demonstrates how lessons from the first dimension — inspiring stories of Shackleton and others — can be applied to organizations confronting contemporary challenges such as global competition, a precarious economy, and the need for constant innovation, growth, and change. To lead the way, he provides a compass — 10 leadership principles and strategies, the underlying ingredients of triumph that enabled Shackleton’s men to persevere, bond, strive, and survive.
The book does a great job of describing what happened on the expedition that Shackleton led and giving easy applicable ideas from that voyage to leaders at all levels. I appreciated how the book effortlessly moved from talking about Shackleton to applying lessons to leaders.

Leading at the edge demonstrates how leadership lessons from the edge of survival can be applied to organizations confronting such contemporary challenges as competition; economic uncertainty; and the need for constant innovation, growth, and change. All leaders can relate to that description, but especially pastors.

Perkins covered what leaders can learn about vision & quick victories, symbolism, optimism, stamina, team work, values, conflict, celebrations, risk and creativity from Shackleton’s voyage. There are a ton of lessons leaders can take away from this part of world history.

A few more things that jumped out to me:

  • Shackleton’s family motto was “By endurance we conquer.”
  • Leaders need to be aware that their personal presence is a unique source of energy and power.
  • Keen intellect, business competence, and strong interpersonal skills are essential leadership qualities. But if there is one quality that makes the difference at The Edge, it is the ability to remain optimistic in the face of daunting adversity.
  • Leaders who are successful at The Edge are able to instill in others the belief that the organization will achieve its goals.
  • Leaders must convince their teams that success is both necessary and possible.
  • Effective leaders are able to look at adversity and see the opportunity, even if others see only the danger.
  • A unified team is one in which every member understands the tasks to be done and feels a sense of deep personal responsibility for the success of the group’s efforts.
  • Knowing that a risk is called for and actually taking it are two different things.

If you want a good leadership book, this is definitely one worth picking up. Because of the history/stories, it is a quick read.