Leadership and Management

We generally think of leadership and management as being important in business or government activities. But leadership and management are both relevant in other contexts as well. In the 19th century, for example, much time, money, and effort was spent by English, Norwegians, and Americans as they explored the polar regions of the world. Two high-profile goals motivated these explorers: to be the first to reach the North and South Poles of the earth. In commenting on the race to the South Pole between Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen, author Roland Huntford observed that:

"For the privilege of being the first to tread this useless yet so desirable spot, both men were prepared to . . . face any extremity of suffering and danger. The poles of the earth had become an obsession of Western man. . . Since the obsession was there, it had to be exorcised, and the sooner the better."(p. 18)

To achieve their goals, explorers first had to secure financial support to pay for their expeditions. But that was only the beginning. Ships and personnel had to be acquired, and tonnes of supplies and animals had to be taken across the ocean to the starting point for the expedition. All of this required a great deal of planning and organizing, both of which are key functions of management. But leadership was also crucial because these expeditions were attempting to achieve goals that were at the very edge of human capability. They were also very dangerous, and many men died on these expeditions. Leaders who could generate high motivation and commitment among their followers were therefore critical to the success of their expeditions.

Polar explorers were a colorful group. Following are brief summaries of some of the most notable ones.

John Franklin (1786-1847)

John Franklin was an English explorer who hungered for fame and promotion through the ranks of the English navy. When he led his first expedition in northern Canada in 1819, he had no experience in the Arctic in important tasks such as canoeing, hunting, or back-packing. He almost died of starvation due to poor planning. In 1845, he led a group of 129 men in an attempt to discover the Northwest Passage. He had learned a few things from his first expedition. For example, he took along waterproof clothing, used stronger sailing vessels, and made sure that supplies were in place. But critics of Franklin's approach to exploration noted that he ignored the harsh environment he was entering and simply tried to transport the "civilized" English environment with him rather than adapting to the Arctic environment as the Inuit did. His expedition was last seen by a whaling ship in Baffin Bay in June 1845. His group was never seen again by white men, but his expedition may have encountered Inuit hunters somewhere in their travels. His ships were crushed by the ice and all 129 members of the expedition died as they tried to get back to civilization. Franklin has been described as recklessly ambitious, humourless, sensitive, unimaginative, dogged, brave, indecisive, calm when danger threatened, courageous, charming, humble, and easygoing. He was a run-of-the-mill naval officer but he was able to get appointed to some very high-profile expeditions because he had lots of friends in important positions.

Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922)

Ernest Shackleton was an Anglo-Irish explorer who became famous for his dramatic expeditions to the Antarctic as he tried to reach the South Pole. He served under Robert Scott on one unsuccessful expedition, then later mounted his own expedition (also unsuccessful). Shackleton later decided to trek across the entire Antarctic continent, but his ship, the Endurance, became locked in the ice and he never even reached the continent. After the ship was crushed and sank, his party camped on the ice for some weeks until the ice broke up. They then took to small boats and made their way to nearby Elephant Island, a desolate, isolated, and windswept speck of land in the South Atlantic Ocean. Knowing that rescue would never come there, Shackleton and a small group of men then sailed a tiny open boat across 800 miles of ocean to South Georgia where they organized a relief party for the men back on Elephant Island. In the end, not a man was lost and Shackleton's leadership reputation became legendary. His men affectionately called him "The Boss."

Shackleton has been described as quick-tempered, impatient, self-confident, ruthless, egotistical, moody, optimistic, persuasive, restless, and ambitious. But he was a strong leader who made things happen. His followers did whatever he ordered because they had complete faith in him. He was not only in command, but was seen to be in command. But Shackleton did not treat his followers as lesser men. Rather, he showed great concern for the men under his command, and he delegated well. His followers saw that he put them ahead of himself, and he willingly took responsibility when things went wrong. He made everyone feel that they were important. His men said that they made it through incredible hardships because of his leadership. His inspirational leadership motivated his men to give that extra ounce of effort in life-and-death situations.

Like many other polar explorers, Shackleton was sometimes uninformed about important facts about the polar regions, and this lack of knowledge got him into trouble on various occasions. He was also inexperienced when he embarked on his early expeditions and learned some hard lessons about traveling in cold climates. He was also ill-prepared at times and this, too, created unnecessary hardships for him and his men.

Adolphus Greeley (1844-1935)

Adolphus Greeley was a U.S. Army officer who led an expedition to reach a new "furthest north" in the race to the North Pole. In 1881, Greeley's expedition was dropped off on the shores of Ellesmere Island. Things went fairly well for the first six months, but when a re-supply ship failed to get through in 1882, morale plummeted. When Greeley concluded that a second re-supply ship was not going to make it either, he started to sail south in August 1883 in some small boats in the hope of being rescued. On his way, he discovered that no supply depots had been set out for him. Suddenly starvation was a real possibility. By October 1883 winter had come and men began to die from starvation and exposure. As things got worse, Greeley became a father-figure to his men and cared for them, even denying himself rations. By May 1884, 19 of his 25 men had died, and the surviving members were near death. They were miraculously rescued by a search party. In spite of the terrible toll of human life, there were significant scientific discoveries as a result of the expedition. He triumphed over scurvy by feeding his men fresh meat and lemon juice, and he amassed scientific and geographical records that were used by future Arctic expeditions.

Greeley has been described as ambitious, irritable, and suspicious of some of his men. Greeley was a commissioned officer, and was very conscious of the status differences between himself and his non-commissioned enlisted men. He therefore maintained a psychological gap between himself and his followers. He was also a strict commander and a stickler for military discipline. Problems were compounded because Greeley did not get along with one of his lieutenants, and two of his subordinates were actively trying to undermine Greeley's leadership. To make matters worse, Greeley was insensitive to conflicts between his men and forced people to work together who did not get along with each other. He had no experience in the Arctic, and knew nothing about sailing, so he didn't have much legitimacy in the eyes of his men. He tried to run things himself and didn't listen to anyone else's ideas.

Robert Scott (1868-1912) and Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)

In 1911-1912, the Englishman Robert Scott and the Norwegian Roald Amundsen became involved in a race to see who would be the first human being to reach the South Pole. The trip to the Pole was made in conditions that are hard to imagine. On foot or on skis, the explorers made their way across 1200 kilometres of ice and snow, through â€"40 C temperatures and over mountains nearly 3000 metres high. Once at the Pole, they had to turn around and fight their way back to the coast through the same conditions. As a boy, Roald Amundsen was inspired by Franklin's exploits in the Arctic. But unlike Franklin, Amundsen became highly successful because he learned to adapt his behaviour to the environment in which he was working. He avoided almost all of the mistakes that other explorers made. For example, he learned that most expeditions actually had two leaders: the commander (who typically had no navigation experience) and the ship's captain. This could lead to dissension. He also learned that there was typically conflict between the scientific staff and the sailors on the expedition. Amundsen therefore studied science and navigation and became an expert at both, so there was no divided command on his expeditions. He also took only small numbers of men so there were less people to feed. In sharp contrast to most other explorers, he adopted the successful strategies of the Inuit to survive in polar climates.

Amundsen was a meticulous planner because he realized that planning was absolutely essential for a successful expedition to the Pole. In the crucial areas of food and fuel, Amundsen developed a system for laying out supply depots so that they could be found even in a raging blizzard. This ensured that the Norwegians had enough supplies to make it safely back to their base camp after they reached the Pole. By studying polar conditions, he knew that sled dogs were the best animals to haul supplies. He also knew that going to the Pole on skis was far superior to walking. Amundsen carefully selected the four men who would accompany him and who would live in very close quarters during the 3-month trip to the Pole and back. Amundsen's men had complete confidence in his abilities, and he, in turn, allowed them to participate in many of the important decisions that had to be made during the expedition. Robert Scott was a sharp contrast to Amundsen. Because he left the planning of important details of the expedition to the last minute, major mistakes were made in decisions about animals and equipment. For example, Scott decided to rely on ponies for hauling supplies, but this decision ignored the obvious fact that ponies were inferior to huskies for hauling supplies in bitter cold weather. Scott did take skis along, but few people in his party knew how to use them properly. They therefore wasted precious energy and covered fewer kilometres each day than they might have. Scott's planning of supply depots was also haphazard, and insufficient care was taken in the storage of fuel. In the extreme cold of the Antarctic, much of the fuel that Scott had stored in supply depots evaporated. On his return trip, therefore, he consistently ran short of fuel. (Amundsen had no such problems because he had designed an airtight seal for his fuel containers.) Scott's leadership ability was also questionable. There was dissension in the ranks because of poor communication, conflicting orders, and interpersonal disagreements. Scott did not inspire confidence in his men, and he did not allow them to participate in important decisions.

Who won the race? Although both men managed to reach the South Pole, Amundsen beat Scott to the prize by a full month. In the end, Scott's men paid dearly for their leader's shortcomings: they all died of starvation and exposure as they attempted to get back to their base camp on the coast.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the difference between leaders and managers? Were the explorers described above leaders? Were they managers?
  2. Compare the leadership ability of each of the polar explorers in terms of the five traits which are thought to predict effective leadership.
  3. What is emotional intelligence? To what extent do the polar explorers exhibit emotional intelligence?
  4. Use any one of the contingency leadership theories discussed in the chapter to analyze the appropriateness of the leadership styles used by Scott and Amundsen. Were they using the right style? Explain.
  5. What makes a leader charismatic? Which of the polar explorers do you think was the most charismatic? Explain.

Sources: Roland Huntford, The Last Place on Earth. New York: Atheneum, 1985; Pierre Berton, The Arctic Grail. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1988 (esp. pp. 125-196, 435-486, and 531-548); Roland Huntford, Shackleton. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985.

Answers to Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the difference between leaders and managers? Were the explorers described above leaders? Were they managers?
  2. As noted on p. 325 of the text, the difference between leaders and managers depends in part on how the terms are defined. A currently popular notion is that leaders provide the vision and strategy for an organization and promote major changes, while managers implement the vision and desired changes through planning and organizing activities. As also noted in the text, managing ought to involve most of the activities that are included in the leader's role. For arguments sake, if we accept the idea that leaders provide a vision and managers implement the vision, the following conclusions emerge.

    All of the polar explorers described above were leaders because they provided a vision that their followers adopted (being the first to the North or South Pole). In the 21st century, it may seem that such a goal would not be very motivating to many people, but at that time in history, there was great excitement and fame associated with reaching the poles of the earth. While all the leaders provided a vision, the effectiveness of each of the leaders varied quite a bit. Amundsen would likely be judged the most effective because he achieved his goals and his men survived. Shackleton would also be judged as an effective leader because his leadership style was so highly motivating to his men (but Shackleton did not often reach his goals). The other explorers (Franklin, Scott, and Greeley) would likely be judged as ineffective because they not only failed to reach their goals, some or all of their followers died as a result of being part of their expeditions.

    The explorers also needed to be good managers (or at least make sure there was a good manager in the group), but most of them got into difficulties because they did not manage their expeditions as well as they should have. Given the unforgiving nature of the terrain they were covering, it was absolutely essential that planning and organizing of all aspects of the trip were done well. Amundsen was the exception in the group because he was a meticulous planner and organizer. Shackleton appears somewhat intermediate in management skills, and the men on his expeditions generally survived. Greeley, Franklin, and Scott exhibited a lack of good management skills, and their followers paid for that with their lives.

  3. Compare the leadership ability of each of the polar explorers in terms of the five traits which are thought to increase the likelihood of effective leadership.
  4. The five traits associated with leadership are described on pp. 310-311 of the text. Students should use the information provided on each of the leaders to assess the extent to which each leader exhibited the traits in question. It is clear that all of the leaders had a strong drive and a motivation to lead. But several of them exhibited characteristics that do not fit with the five traits. For example, on several occasions Franklin was indecisive and seemed to lack self-confidence. As another example, Greeley seemed to lack emotional maturity because he was suspicious of some of his followers, and had trouble building trusting relationships with them.

    Each of the explorers also had traits that are not listed among the five. For example, Franklin was charming, Shackleton was egotistical, and Greeley and Scott were autocratic.

  5. What is emotional intelligence? To what extent do the polar explorers exhibit emotional intelligence?
  6. Emotional intelligence refers to a leader's sensitivity about both the feelings of others and about the leader’s own emotions. It has five key components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. The explorers differed on the extent to which they exhibited emotional intelligence. Greeley, for example, has been described as insensitive to others and to conflicts among other people (lack of empathy). His insistence on keeping a psychological distance between himself and his followers further seemed to reduce empathy. By contrast, Shackleton had great empathy for his followers and good social skills.

  7. Use any one of the contingency leadership theories discussed in the chapter to analyze the appropriateness of the leadership styles used by Scott and Amundsen. Were they using the right style? Explain.
  8. [Note: Two important points should be kept in mind when considering student answers to this question. First, students must make certain assumptions before they can answer the question. For example, if they use Hersey and Blanchard's model, they have to make an assumption about the ability and willingness of the followers of Scott and Amundsen. Assumptions will likely vary across students and this must be taken into consideration when assessing their answer. Second, their analysis may show that a given leadership theory does not seem to predict very well. This is an opportunity to re-examine any assumptions that have been made, and to discuss the complexities associated with leadership theories.]

    If students use Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership model, they must determine which leadership style is most appropriate, given the willingness and ability of the leader's followers. The followers of both Scott and Amundsen were very willing. They knew the dangers that were involved, but they were excited about the prospects for adventure, fame, and fortune. In terms of ability, Amundsen's men seemed to have better ability than Scott's men did. For example, they were proficient at skiing, whereas Scott's men were not. This made a huge difference in the energy that had to be expended by Scott's men and increased the amount of food they needed. Thus, if Amundsen's men were able and willing, Hersey and Blanchard's model says that Amundsen should have used the "delegating" style, that is, he should have provided little direction or support to his followers precisely because they were willing and able. As noted, Amundsen expressed great confidence in his followers and he allowed them to participate in decisions that would affect them. This is consistent with the delegating style, but also with the participating style. Given that Scott's men were willing, but perhaps not as able as Amundsen's, the Hersey and Blanchard model suggests that the leader should exhibit both directive and supportive behaviour. Scott did the former, but not the latter.

    As another example, if students use Fiedler's contingency model, they will have to make an assessment of Scott and Amundsen's leadership styles and then determine whether the situational favorableness created by the combination of task structure, leader position power, and leader-member relations fits that leadership style. As far as leadership style is concerned, Scott seems to lean more toward the autocratic style and Amundsen more toward the democratic style. As far as the three factors are concerned, leader position power was high for both men because they were the leaders of their respective expeditions. Task structure was also high because it was very clear what they were trying to do. Leader-member relations differed somewhat, with positive leader member relations existing between Amundsen and his men, and somewhat less positive relations existing between Scott and his men. Fiedler argues that when task structure is high, leader-member relations are good, and leader position power is strong, a more task-oriented leadership style works best. Amundsen exhibited a more relationship oriented style, yet he was still successful. Fiedler also argues that when task structure is high, leader position power is strong, and leader-member relations are poor, a relationship oriented style works best. This generally describes Scott's situation, so he should have used a relationship oriented style, but he did not. So, Fiedler’s model suggests that both Amundsen and Scott were using the wrong styles. Scott's failure is therefore not surprising, but Amundsen’s success is. Perhaps Amundsen’s management (not leadership) activities were so strong that they overrode any leadership effect.

  9. What makes a leader charismatic? Which of the polar explorers do you think was the most charismatic? Explain.

As noted on pp. 326-328 of the text, charismatic leaders influence others based on inspirational qualities that they possess. Specific characteristics are shown in Exhibit 9.15. At a very general level, all of the explorers might be called charismatic because they have the characteristics noted in Exhibit 9.15 (they inspired their followers, they had a high level of self-confidence, they had a strong need for power, etc.).

The conclusion about which explorer was most charismatic is a subjective one, but many students will say that Shackleton was the most charismatic, pointing to things like his affectionate title of "The Boss" as evidence that his men held him in high regard. They may also conclude that there is an inverse relationship between charisma and success (i.e., Amundsen may seem to be the least charismatic, yet he was the most successful while Shackleton was the most charismatic, yet often failed to reach his goals). But one thing is clear: the men under the command of Shackleton and Amundsen fared better than the men commanded by Franklin, Greeley, or Scott.