Case | HBS Case Collection | April 2003 (Revised December 2010)

Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance

by Nancy F. Koehn, Erica Helms and Philip Mead

Abstract

Provides an opportunity to examine leadership and entrepreneurship in the context of Ernest Shackleton's 1914 Antarctic expedition, a compelling story of crisis, survival, and triumph. Summarizes Shackleton's career as an officer in the British Merchant Marine, his work on several prominent Antarctic missions, and the competitive nature of polar exploration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also examines Shackleton's planning and advance management of what he hoped would be the first-ever trek across the Antarctic continent. Details the events of this epic voyage aboard the Endurance. Readers have the opportunity to examine how, after the vessel became trapped in ice and the crew abandoned ship, the commander shifted his objectives and responsibilities from completing an historic march to ensuring the survival of all 28 expedition members. Considers Shackleton's efforts to maintain his team's morale, loyalty, and commitment in the face of extraordinary mental and physical trials during almost two years in the Antarctic.

Keywords: Entrepreneurship; History; Leadership; Crisis Management; Management Practices and Processes; Groups and Teams; Behavior; Antarctica;

Citation:

Koehn, Nancy F., Erica Helms, and Philip Mead. "Leadership in Crisis: Ernest Shackleton and the Epic Voyage of the Endurance." Harvard Business School Case 803-127, April 2003. (Revised December 2010.)