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Book Review: Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition by Dennis N. T. Perkins, et al

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Did you ever think that leadership lessons can be derived from Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition? This is something that not too many of us are aware of and even fewer would be able to apply such an ordeal to leadership. But this is precisely what Dennis Perkins did in this wonderfully insightful and informative book.

Dennis Perkins spent many years trying to understand what it means to be a leader, especially under conditions of horrendous adversity, ambiguity and change. In the process, he discovered that most leadership theories were far removed from the challenges that leaders face. Perkins decided to look for leadership insights in stories of groups that have been to the outer limits of human endurance. And this is how the idea for this book was born. He discovered that the essence of leadership can be found in this ultimate crucible of human endeavour. By understanding what works when survival is at stake, we can understand how to lead under other conditions. And this is the best test of whether or not you’re a true leader.

Perkins believes that there are ten principles of true leadership. We should never lose sight of the ultimate goals and focus energy on short-term objectives, set a personal example at all times, instill optimism and self-confidence in others, take care of ourselves, reinforce the team message at all times, minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect, master conflict, find something to celebrate and caught up at all times, be willing to take big risks, if necessary, and never give up. By following these principles, individuals will become great leaders.

I loved Perkins’ book from beginning to end. This book will be useful for managers and for individuals who want to be leaders in their own lives. After all, any set of principles that reinforce vision, core team values, the importance of lightening up and tenacious creativity is a set which we should emulate in order to be a leader. So, are you ready to lead from the edge?

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