Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hitting a Point Again

Hitting a point again. A few days ago I received a surprise gift from a West Point classmate I haven’t heard from in a long time, Dr. Judson Belmont. The gift, a book, “Shackleton’s Way” by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell. Sir Ernest Shackleton, explorer and captain of the ill-fated Antarctic voyage of the Endurance (1914-1916) is one of my favorite subjects when it comes to leadership. I sometimes use the Liam Neeson narrated film “The Endurance” in the Allied Ronin Leaders’ Retreats.

In the book’s introduction the authors quickly lay out the challenges that Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven faced, challenges that seemed to escalate exponentially month on end, challenges that are worth considering in light of today’s sad times. Somehow, though, all survived. How? The author’s put it in two words, “Credit Shackleton.” We should not underestimate the power of the individual when much is at stake.

Morrell and Capparell write – “According to Napoleon, ‘a leader is a dealer in hope.’ Shackelton knew how to keep hope in plentiful supply….” When it was preposterous to think they could get out alive, he convinced his men that only a fool would say they wouldn’t.’”

So, I’m hitting the point again from my just published newsletter. If you are in a leadership position, people are depending on you, looking for you, relying on you. For what? For the simple idea that one must go it again for another day.

Some years ago many of my colleagues got caught up in a jargon fostered by numerous training organizations. “There is no hope,” they would say in effort to have people take personal responsibility rather than sit idle and wait for a rescuer to come fix their situation. From that perspective maybe it worked, and got people off their duffs to get on with it. But, when one becomes convinced that hope is a meaningless thing, let’s be assured that hopelessness isn’t. Hopelessness leads to all kinds of maladies. Strong arguments exist that hopelessness undermines the body’s immune system. Hopelessness causes corporate cave-ins.

I’m not talking about false hope – the kind that comes with false promises. I’m talking about the will to continue generated by strong spirit. And when team spirit is waning, people look for a leader (anyone really) who can keep a spark of hope alive within.

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