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Learning From the Best - 3 Qualities of Great Leadership by Shackleton and How You Can Change Today

Updated: Apr 13, 2023



Background on Ernest Shackleton
A summary of their epic journey
Shackleton's 3 shining qualities
How can you apply these qualities?


Leadership is very interesting - both from the perspective of how a great leader can shape the future, but also the lives of those around them. After recently watching Shackleton: the Greatest Story of Survival, the outstanding leadership qualities of Shackleton were too good not to be shared, along with some practical ways for aspiring leaders to start applying them.

what are the qualities of a great leader
Ernest Shackleton could perhaps be one of the greatest leaders of all time?

Background on Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton was an Irish explorer who attempted to travel to the very southern tip of the Earth in the Antarctic region. Embarking on his journey in 1914, selling his vision was to be the easiest part of the journey...

A summary their epic journey

Just getting to the main body of Antarctica, as you'd imagine, is fraught with many obstacles and dangers, let alone travelling across it.

As it turns out, they lost their ship to the maze of ever changing ice sheets before even hitting the mainland,

The vision of being the first expedition to the end of the Earth was over. Instead, Shackleton declared it was now an even greater story - one of ultimate survival.

I recommend you watch the documentary to get a full understanding. But if you don't want to, then here is a summary below for context, (You might want to scroll past!)

A real photo of their boat, the Endurance trapped by ice and snow
A real photo of their boat, the Endurance trapped by ice and snow

  • First their boat was trapped, and then destroyed.

  • Then, over months, they made their way to the edge of an island from where they could sail to the nearest civilization.

  • Spent weeks crossing some of the harshest oceans in the world to the nearest civilized island, only to land on the wrong side, and have no choice but to walk to get there.... Except there's mountains

  • Procure more ships (1 of which caught fire!) to rescure the entire crew, none of whom died!

  • All together, they went back to safety and not a single one of the 27 crew perished!

Absolutely.... Mind blowing....

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to muster every fibre of your being into positive action to just "keep going"? Imagine having to do that for over 500 days, in freezing, unbearable, and hopeless conditions?

So how was he able to do this, and how was he able to inspire those around him to just keep going?

Shackleton's 3 shining qualities

1) His positivity

His radiating positivity. He had the ability to lift the spirits of those around him up, and always remained positive, even in the face of death. He also made sure to select crew members with a similar mindset.

what are the qualities of a great leader - using positivity to inspire others
Shackleton radiated positivity

2) His ability to continuously make the right decision

All of his decisions were responsible for everyone's life, but he was able to make continuously right decisions. His entire crew survived, so it's a real testament to his decision making ability.

what are the qualities of a great leader? how was ernest shackleton so great?
It was an epic journey....

3) His integrity in leading by example

He could easily have directed some crew to travel across the Antarctic oceans or across the mountains - and any lesser leader would have. But he never asked anyone to do anything he wouldn't do.

what are the qualities of a great leader - leading with integrity
Shackleton always lead by example and never asked anyone to do what he wouldn't do himself

How can you apply these qualities?

I had been trying all my life to have these types of qualities, but it wasn't until I started the following process that I could start to change. What works for me, is self reflection, discarding meditation, and journaling.

As I reflect and discard, I've been practicing applying these qualities with consistency and monitoring them with my journal. As I do this, I'm building the new programming of my mind while clearing out the remnants of the old programming!

1) Positivity:


  • "I'm happy" every day in the morning

  • Gratitude in the morning and at night

  • Smile as much as I can

  • Give complements

  • Warm hearted "hello"'s to strangers


A lot of my negativity has completely changed. There are still some negative patterns like a lack of humility, judgements and criticism that I'm working on, but a lot of it seems to more so come from misstreating my body.

2) Decision making:


  • Keeping the mind clean for more clarity

  • Just decide and start, even if it's not perfect

  • A plan or some rules to help with directing decisions

  • Reflecting, learning, growing

  • Just have faith in that Universe has got your back


I have a habit of being overwhelmed when making certain decisions, and I freeze trying to make the "perfect decision". So now when I recognize that feeling in my body, I just quickly make a decision and move on.

3) Leading by example:


  • Do it yourself before asking someone to do it for you

  • "Be the change you want to see"

  • Help people by showing them solutions


Gluttony seems to be something the Universe is showing me, so I'm focusing on just clearing this, especially the body. Taking control of the body so I'm not stuck in desire, as this seems to be lead to bad habits that need changing.


There are many qualities of a great leader, but highlighting them in exceptional cases is a great way to learn. Shackleton and his crew faced such unimaginable circumstances, I'm also desensitized in trying to explain them. And while I may not have done them justice, I hope at least that by understanding his 3 greatest qualities of positivity, decision making, and leading by example, and providing how I'm applying them and changing, that you will also get some value out of this article and the example set by Shackleton's leadership.


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