I’m reading Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen’s new book Great by Choice where, for illustrative purposes, they compare the leadership styles of the two Antarctic explorers, the well-known Robert Scott and the lesser known Roald Amundsen, who raced each other to the South Pole. In particular, Collins and Hansen references Roland Huntford’s fantastic book The Last Place on Earth – Scott and Amundsen’s Race to the South Pole.
I read The Last Place on Earth in 2009 and immediately appreciated it as both an important historic account as well as a great study in leadership. It combines the two types of books I love to read – history books and in particular biographies of historic characters and books about real life adventure. The Last Place on Earth takes a historic look at one of the great adventures of all time – the story of the two men who raced to be the first to reach the South Pole.
I won’t repeat Collins and Hansen’s leadership lessons (you can read their book) but instead share one leadership observation and one conclusion I drew from The Last Place on Earth.
The observation – Scott ended up being the more celebrated of the two explorers though he failed in his mission which ended in his and his team’s death while Amundsen, the first man to the South Pole, is largely unknown outside of historical and exploration circles.
The conclusion – if a leader submits all, including their own personal ambitions and recognition, to the fulfillment of the team’s mission they’re more likely to be successful. At the same time they’re more likely to be unknown or forgotten because they made accomplishing the mission look easy while doing it with less drama than those who failed.