Leading at The Edge

Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition

 Leading at The Edge

Author: Dennis N.T. Perkins
Pub Date: March 2012
Print Edition: $15.00
Print ISBN: 9780814431948
Page Count: 288
Format: Paper or Softback
Edition: Second Edition
e-Book ISBN: 9780814431610

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Marking the 100th Anniversary of the Historic and Perilous Race to the South Pole

Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition

“Perkins is a connoisseur of leadership in circumstances of great peril...[A] thoughtful work.” —The New York Times

In the annals of 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. Forty-five days later, disaster struck. Ice closed around their ship, the Endurance, like a vise. For nearly two 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. Through it all, the explorers stayed committed to working together with cohesion and camaraderie. All 27 men survived the polar ordeal with respect for one another and their leader.

In LEADING AT THE EDGE: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, SECOND EDITION (AMACOM 2012) Dennis N.T. Perkins and his team of collaborators present 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. “The challenges that you face as a leader may not involve physical survival, but you will need to deal with the human reactions that are common to any stressful situation,” Perkins guarantees his readers. “By understanding the leadership practices that work in extreme situations—conditions in which normal or even above-average performance means failure and even death—you will increase your ability to lead and flourish in the face of adversity.”

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—ten leadership principles and strategies, the underlying ingredients of triumph that enabled Shackleton’s men to persevere, bond, strive, and survive:

1. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal, and focus energy on short-term objectives.

2. Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behavior.

3. Instill optimism and self-confidence, but stay grounded in reality.

4. Take care of yourself: Maintain your stamina and let go of guilt.

5. Reinforce the team message constantly: "We are one—we live or die together."

6. Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect.

7. Master conflict—deal with anger in small doses, engage dissidents, and avoid needless power struggles.

8. Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about.

9. Be willing to take the Big Risk.

10. Never give up—there's always another move.

Substantially revised from its hardcover debut, LEADING AT THE EDGE remains riveting and powerfully relevant. The new edition features gripping new business cases; an updated epilogue comparing Shackleton’s leadership style with those of two other famous polar explorers, Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott; and an updated expedition toolkit, which includes instruments for individual assessment, a creative framework for identifying and resolving conflicts, and suggestions for further reading.

“I believe that Shackleton and others who have faced the limits of human endurance have left an invaluable legacy,” Perkins reflects. “This legacy incorporates the leadership strategies outlined in this book, but it extends beyond that. The lessons drawn from the experiences of others can help individuals to clarify their personal values and to make decisions about the kind of people they want to be as leaders. By defining ourselves, we will be better able to reach The Edge—wherever and whenever we choose to pursue it.”

About the Authors

Dennis N.T. Perkins, Ph.D., is Chief Executive Officer of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to effective leadership in demanding environments. His quest to understand leadership began as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and company commander during the Vietnam War, and continued in graduate school—first at the Harvard Business School and later as a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Michigan. He specialized in leadership studies while serving on the faculty of the Yale School of Management and has worked with a diverse array of organizations on developing exceptional leaders and teams. He lives in Madison, Connecticut, and is currently working on his next book, Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race, to be published by AMACOM in the fall 2012. You can find more information about the author at www.syncreticsgroup.com.

Margaret P. Holtman is the founder of Margaret Holtman, LLC, which specializes in leadership solutions for individuals, teams, and organizations. Jillian B. Murphy graduated magna cum laude from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and completed her Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the University of New Haven.

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