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Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition
Dennis N. T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman, Paul Kessler, Catherine McCarthy

Retail Price: $24.95
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Format: Hardcover, 268pp.
ISBN: 9780814405437
Publisher: AMACOM
Pub. Date: May 2000

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

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. Stranded in 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 effective organizational 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.


Dr. Perkins, a management consultant whose clients include American Express, Bose, Citibank, and Marriot is ... a connoisseur of leadership in circumstances of great peril. His new book offers lessons in leadership "at the outer limits of human endurance—the place I call The Edge." This thoughtful work has the feel of a lifelong obsession.... Dr. Perkins builds his corporate leadership text around the astonishing story of the British Imperial Trans-Antartic Expedition, led by Sir Ernest Shackleton.... Dr. Perkins offers us Ernest Shackleton as the model leader, a captain obsessed with the welfare of his men. Cautious or daring as circumstances required, Shackleton was a rock.... Dr. Perkins has distilled 10 principles from these survival experiences, and he offers them as a guide for business leadership at the edge.
New York Times, May 28, 2000


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About the Authors

Dennis N. T. Perkins, Ph.D. (Branford, CT) is president of the Syncretics Group, a consultancy that specializes in effective leadership. Margaret P. Holtman is director of employee development at Hartford Life, Inc. Paul R. Kessler is a managing consultant at Stromberg Consulting. Catherine McCarthy, Ph.D., is a consultant with Organizational Psychologists, L.L.C.

Table of Contents
The Shackleton Saga1
Part 1Ten Strategies for Leading at The Edge
1Vision and Quick Victories: Never lose sight of the ultimate goal, and focus energy on short-term objectives15
2Symbolism and Personal Example: Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behaviors29
3Optimism and Reality: Instill optimism and self-confidence, but stay grounded in reality40
4Stamina: Take care of yourself: Maintain your stamina and let go of guilt56
5The Team Message: Reinforce the team message constantly: "We are one—we live or die together."70
6Core Team Values: Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect86
7Conflict: Master conflict—deal with anger in small doses, engage dissidents, and avoid needless power struggles98
8Lighten Up! Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about113
9Risk: Be willing to take the Big Risk125
10Tenacious Creativity: Never give up—there's always another move139
Part 2Case Studies in Leading at The Edge
01Introduction to the Case Studies153
12Business Communication Systems (AT&T/ Lucent Technologies): Back to the Future157
13Rice Health Systems: Healing a Sick Organization170
14Weyerhaeuser Company: Transforming a Culture185
15Malden Mills: Rising from the Ashes198
Part 3Continuing Your Expedition
16Learning to Lead at The Edge215
17Epilogue: A Perspective on Success and Failure227
Part 4Resources for Leading at The Edge
Critical Leadership Skills Survey234
Your Leadership Expedition: A Personal Development Plan241
Your Leadership Expedition Map245
Further Readings from The Edge247

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