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Save Them All Leadership!

My generation has seen its share of heroes: pioneers of space travel, war heroes, civil rights activists, and of course sports superstars. We have seen great leaders like Kennedy, King, Lombardi, and Reagan. But what hero leader can you recall that faced odds of survival not only for himself but his entire team that were so astronomically high and stacked against them that death was only a foregone conclusion.
This was the precarious situation a band of intrepid, British explorers found themselves in at the very bottom of the Earth 100 years ago! As a World War was brewing in Europe in 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton, an experienced Antarctic explorer recruited a crew of 27 grizzled sailors and explorers to complete the first Trans-Antarctic trek from coast to coast, an 1,800 mile journey crossing over the South Pole.
Shackleton and his crew sailed from England aboard their vessel aptly named, Endurance, in August 1914, as England entered WW I. The plan was to launch the expedition from South Georgia Island, enter the Weddell Sea, send a party ashore for the Trans-Antarctic trek where they would meet up with their support team in the Ross Sea. A pretty straight-forward plan except for one thing: the biggest danger in the Weddell Sea was the 1,000 miles of pack ice between the ship and the Bay of Vahsel. For six weeks, the Endurance and her crew battled through the ice, but on January 18, 1915, only 100 miles from their destination, the ice closed in around them into a death grip. After drifting in the arctic-vise for 281 days and 1,186 miles, the ice crushed the Endurance on November 15, 1915, stranding the 28 men on the ice with limited supplies and less hope for survival. They eventually made their way in lifeboats to a nearby, uninhabited island.
To make a long, unbelievable story somewhat shorter, after 5 months stranded on the barren Elephant Island, Shackleton and five of his crew, departed in a 22 foot lifeboat on an 800 mile journey back to South Georgia. They navigated with a lone sextant, but only had 6 opportunities on the two-week voyage to take readings. They battled winds of 60-70 mph and seas as high as 30 feet, which combined with the dead reckoning navigation could have easily knocked them off course just enough to miss the island completely! The story ends with a successful landing on South Georgia, a safe trek to the whaling station, four attempts to get back to Elephant Island and the successful rescue of ALL 27 MEN on  August 30, 1917!
An amazing story of human perseverance and the sheer will to survive for sure, but what were the contributing factors that enabled them to beat the astronomically high odds against them? To a man, I am confident the entire crew would “tip their cap” to The Boss, Sir Ernest Shackleton (even the ones who disagreed with him and he admonished upon their return). Shackleton exhibited remarkable leadership discipline by continuing to demand a routine of assignments and responsibilities designed to not only keep them alive but keep the morale moving forward. You see, Shackleton never created a plan to fail but was always generating hope by working toward a solution, no matter how improbable or even impossible. His one and only objective was the safe return of ALL of his crew, not a plan to rescue 90%+ but 100%!
I encourage you to Google Sir Ernest’s story to read about all the details that make this one of the most incredible rescues in history, even compared to Apollo 13. If you would like to learn more about the leadership skills Shackleton exhibited and how you can apply them to your life, I recommend a book by my friend Leonard Sweet, Summoned to Lead (Zondervan, 2004). Sir Ernest’s love for God borne out by his commitment to loving his neighbor, saved the souls of 28 crew members.
Do you love your “crew” enough to lead them through impossible odds in an adventure to save lives through Jesus Christ?

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