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Leading at The Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition [Hardcover]

Dennis N.T. Perkins , Margaret P. Holtman , Paul R. Kessler
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 5 2000
Part adventure story, part leadership guide, this intriguing book examines Shackleton's legendary Antarctic expedition through the lens of business - to reveal a set of powerful strategies for corporate leaders.

In the chronicles of extraordinary adventures and against-the-odds survival, nothing compares to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team of South Pole explorers. Strandedin the frozen sea for nearly two years, they endured extreme temperatures, hazardous ice, dwindling food, complete isolation, and perpetual blackness.

Yet, despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the group remained cohesive, congenial, and mercifully alive - a fact that speaks not just to luck but to an unparalleled feat in leadership.

Now, for the first time ever, Leading at the Edge draws on this amazing story to reveal the power of effectiveorganizational leadership under conditions of uncertainty, ambiguity, and rapid change. The book uncovers 10 lessons - complete with stirring examples from the Shackleton expedition, as well as contemporary business case studies of the strategies in action - on what it takes to be a great leader. Readers learn how to:

* Set a personal example with vivid symbols and behaviors

* Instill optimism while staying grounded in reality

* Reinforce the team message constantly

* Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about

* Have the courage to take big risks, and more.

For managers and executives who feel stressed out or stretched thin, these memorable strategies will help bring order to chaos - and success in the face of the most daunting adversity.

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From Publishers Weekly

Although their experiences may sometimes seem torturous, most managers aren't facing dangerous or life-threatening conditions. Even so, argues consultant Perkins, they would do well to learn from both triumphant and failed expeditions. A former Marine lieutenant, Perkins introduces 10 key concepts he believes are essential to productive leadership with lively anecdotes from the adverse but ultimately successful expedition to the South Pole led by Ernest Shackleton in 1914 (his entire crew survived on the ice with almost no supplies or hope for rescue after their ship drifted off course and was crushed), which he contrasts with a disastrous Canadian expedition launched at almost the same time. Among the principles in the book's first half: "Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect"; "Take care of yourself, maintain your stamina and let go of your guilt"; "Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behaviors." He also suggests that managers can benefit by keeping an "expedition log" in which they write about their current work situations. The second half of the book consists of four business case studies, including one of Malden Mills, a family-owned company that remained open despite fires that virtually shut down its operations. General readers are likely to find these studies less compelling, though experienced executives may identify with some of the management issues. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


...should be read by anyone who aspires to the mantle of leadership. -- National Post, May 25,2000

Perkins has distilled 10 principles from [Shackleton's] survival experiences he offers them as a guide for business leadership at the edge. -- The New York Times, May 28, 2000

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Leaders who take their organizations to The Edge must channel energy toward two equally important goals. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Leadership & Action May 12 2003
The author, Dennis N. T. Perkins, shows extraordinary insight in leadership with 10 clearly stated principles. Based in strong part on Shackelton's expedition, these 10 principles are not only clearly stated, but truly make a difference. It is obvious that Perkins understands leadership. The book is easy to read, but takes plenty of mental energy. This book should be read by any manager, and should be considered a classic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Easier to read and apply than Covey's 7 Habits April 26 2003
By William
An incredibly well-written primer on leadership. This book is a quick read, easy to grasp and full of poignant vingettes about those who have demonstrated, or have failed to demonstrate leadership at critical junctions in various situations. Being familiar with Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition prior to reading this book is helpful, but not necessary. However, the many examples from the expedition cited by the author are bound to make any serious student of leadership want to know the whole story, so I recommend purchasing Alfred Lansing's "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" originally published in 1959 and now in its third printing (Carroll & Graf, 1998), as well as the recent movie, "Shackleton" starring Kenneth Branagh produced by A&E. Having images from the book and movie in your mind clearly adds vividness to the leadership examples cited by Dennis Perkins. Additionally, since the author himself is clearly intimately familiar with the events, readers can only benefit from coming at the book from the same point of reference.
There are bound to be comparisons between the author's 10 Leadership Strategies and Covey's 7 Habits. While there may be differences in focus (the 7 Habits are focused on development of personal succes while Perkins' 10 Strategies are focused on leading a successful organization), Perkins steps into the cold, hard world of real life drama played out in boardrooms, production facilities and corporate culture by demonstrating the key 10 leadership strategies he has gleaned from Shackleton's overwhelming drive to get his crew home safely against odds that could easily have crushed the bravest of souls.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Leadership rules in a turbulent world April 22 2003
By A Customer
A worthwhile book on survival through good leadership.
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Dennis was interviewed about this book on FoxNews, and he was captivating with his story of Shackleton and what he learned of leadership.
Perkins has applicable background, in Vietnam and management consulting and teaching which make this book doubly fascinating.
I found his style and wit so easy to read and yet remember the points being made. There are many one can take away from this and use, however two that stand out in my mind are: great leaders don't enter knowing everything, e.g. Shackleton had never even slept in a sleeping bag before, much is learned; second, in At Edge experiences, overcome uncertainly with structure and distractions.
So much more could be said about this excellent contribution to leadership. It is well structured with Shackleton's lessons first, then biz cases which are each unique and contribute to illustrations of these leadership lessons. After each section there is reflection, while at the book's end, more intense follow-up excercies and resources to be pursued.
One great leadership adventure!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful lessons in leadership Dec 10 2002
Leading at the Edge reaveals in detail how to take the qualities of an icon of leadership and how to translate those qualities into practical use for today's business climate and today's realities.
Its easy-to-read format allows the reader to put down the book and easily pick it up where the reader left off.
I admired Shackleton before---now I know precisely why and how to use his qualities to my advantage.
This book definately lived up (actually surpassed)what I hoped it would be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Adventure, Survival, & Leadership July 24 2002
This outstanding book is a collection and analysis of leadership lessons from Ernest Shackleton's heroic 1914-1916 Antarctic expedition at the edge of survival. Shackleton's amazing adventure saga alone is a great read, but it is the leadership insights that make this book a "must-read."
Perkins carefully organized the book into four inter-related parts. After briefly summarizing the Shackleton expedition, in Part One Perkins presents his 10 strategies for leading at the edge:
1- Vision and Quick Victories: Never lose sight of the ultimate goal, and focus energy on short-term objectives.
2- Symbolism and Personal Example: Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behaviors.
3- Optimism and Reality: Instill optimism and self-confidence, but stay grounded in reality.
4- Stamina: Take care of yourself: Maintain your stamina and let go of guilt.
5- The Team Message: Reinforce the team message constantly: "We are one - we live or die together."
6- Core Team Values: Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect.
7- Conflict: Master conflict - deal with anger in small doses, engage dissidents, and avoid needless power struggles.
8- Lighten Up!: Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about.
9- Risk: Be willing to take the Big Risk.
10- Tenacious Creativity: Never give up - there's always another move.
Interwoven with these strategies are detailed accounts from Shackleton's expedition and real world business examples to fully illustrate the strategies' applicability to today's leadership environments.

Part Two is case studies of four organizations that successfully applied the strategies and achieved remarkable success.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Experience this book...
This is the type of book that you will seek out over and over again as you gain insight and understanding into your own individual leadership. Read more
Published on April 25 2002 by "kristineablaha"
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful!
When British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was busy saving his crew after a shipwreck in the Antarctic in 1914, you would guess that he wasn't thinking much about teaching... Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2001 by Rolf Dobelli
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Leadersip Under Duress
This is one of the most exciting books I have read in recent years. In collaboration with others, Perkins briefly reviews the key details of the "Shackleton Saga" before shifting... Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2000 by Robert Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Extending the Schackleton legacy
I found this to be truly engaging. A great storyteller, Dennis Perkins interweaves the drama of the polar expedition with the urgent demands of today's executives, as they grow and... Read more
Published on June 12 2000 by Andrea Sehl
5.0 out of 5 stars it's all a matter of attitue
This book provides a great example of the FACT that anything can be done with the right state of mind. Read more
Published on June 9 2000 by Gene Rachmansky
5.0 out of 5 stars A creative perspective
Having recently discovered the difference between management and leadership, I was very impressed by this insightful perspective on leadership under pressure. Read more
Published on June 6 2000 by Janet Moline
5.0 out of 5 stars Optimism Rules!
A very comprehensive and readable book....
I think this is must read for anyone in management or a leadership role. Read more
Published on June 2 2000 by Emil Kayne
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