Success Formula: Fame Over Fortune

November 5, 2020

The want ad here is a tongue-in-cheek facsimile to a real recruitment effort. Around 1912-13, 5,000 applicants applied for 27 positions. Which aspect of this job description appealed to the motives of ambitious scientists and seafarers? The opportunity for fame, of course.

Ernest Shackleton made four attempts to reach the South Pole between 1902 in 1920. Each failed. His most famous was his third try, the second under his command.

His Endurance set sail, soon became entrapped in ice for nine months, then crushed in the ice floe and sunk. For the next five months they existed in tents and three lifeboats. Finally, Shackleton, with five companions, left the remaining crew behind, sailed in one of the lifeboats to an island 800 miles away, and walked across glaciers to a whaling station.  After three months to arrange a rescue ship, Shackleton returned to rescue his entire crew. All 27 survived.

Shackleton’s leadership example makes headlines 100 years later because once their mission became impossible, it took exceptional leadership and respect for his men to maintain discipline and sustain the will to survive.

I think there are three dimensions of fame aboard the Endurance that we can capture and relate to our work and to leadership today.

Mission: organizations that have clear missions give an elevated purpose to work and winning accomplished instills pride and elevates esprit de corps.

Teamwork: in business and industry, very little is accomplished by solo performances. At work leaders form teams to blend the skills and temperaments to achieve results. Having achieved the mission there is satisfaction in collaborating on something bigger than ourselves.

Challenge: we look up the leaders who challenge us to use our hands hearts and minds to win… To be first… To earn the customers favor because of our excellence and expertise.

Each of these categories offer the promise of fame. How? When the leader expresses his or her respect for their people. Shackleton put his crew ahead of himself they knew his heart at work fame is bestowed by the CEO, not tabloids, Hollywood or social media.

At work today when a leader who loves their people, expresses that love, people will live up to that.