Saturday, February 23, 2008

Shackleton and the First Law of Leadership

I took the midnight to 3 a.m. watch last night. We had finally gotten underway after being hove-to for a few days. While the wind was still blowing at 12 knots, the seas were beginning to settle, and the sky was clearing rapidly with a descending moon showing through the clouds at the horizon.

It was hauntingly beautiful.

After I set the autopilot and did a 360 scan for ships and other hazards, I found myself looking up at the stars in wonder. When my eyes got used to the dark the first layer of stars gave way to billions of others that are normally not visible to us in our light polluted sky at home.

Just then the North Star caught my eye and Sir Ernest Shackleton flashed into my mind. Yes, I thought, Shackleton was one man who exemplified everything I have come to know about being an extraordinary leader.

Let me tell you more.

"Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success." – Sir Ernest Shackleton.

According to Wikipedia, "Shackleton is most noteworthy for leading the unsuccessful Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, colloquially known as the "Endurance Expedition" or "Shackleton's voyage", between 1914 and 1916. Although Shackleton failed to achieve his goal of crossing the Antarctic continent on foot, he demonstrated the leadership for which he is now known when the ship Endurance became trapped in the ice and was destroyed. Shackleton, known by his contemporaries as "the Boss", led his men to refuge on Elephant Island before heading across 1,287 kilometres (800 mi) of the open Antarctic Ocean to South Georgia Island in a small open lifeboat. Upon reaching the remote island, Shackleton crossed severe, mountainous terrain to reach a whaling station from where he was able to muster a ship, eventually to rescue his men on Elephant Island. All the men on Endurance survived their ordeal after spending 22 months in the Antarctic...Shackleton was a key figure in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration...that captured the public imagination...for his leadership skills...[and his]ability to lead men through challenging conditions."

If you have been with me for a while, or have read my book, The Accidental CEO - A Leader's Journey from Ego to Purpose, you know that I'm committed to uncovering the keys to extraordinary leadership and making them easily accessible to all people, no matter what their roles in life may be. Toward that end I've defined Three Laws of Leadership and I contend that if you fully explore and engage them, you will will rise to the top of anything you might wish to do in your life.

So what's my first law?

To be Powerful in Your Life, you must first understand and master your Self.

I think Sir Ernest Shackleton represents living all three laws, but to examine being a Legendary Leader like Shackleton you must begin at the beginning.

You must know your Self.

Well, what does that mean exactly? I believe that when you know who you really are, when you know what you stand for, your values and what you are giving your life for, you can face any challenge or crisis with courage, conviction and decisiveness - and although you may feel fear, you are freed from reacting from fear.

When you know who you are, you bring flexibility to fulfilling your Vision. Shackleton's Vision for his Antarctic Expedition was clear and unswerving, right up until his fortune changed.

Yet, when his ship was destroyed in the ice pack, he lost no time in creating a new plan: getting his entire crew to safety.

As you read the history of this expedition it describes Shackleton as being decisive when he had to be and inclusive when needed to be. More than anything, unlike many adventurers of his day (and ours), it showed his highest priority was the well-being of his people and a willingness to do the right thing no matter what.

Now, none of us will ever be Ernest Shackleton, and my intention is not to tell you to "be like him!" Rather, I want you to understand that when you are clear about who you are, you will have access to something that most do not. You will have access to the invisible, which gives you the most powerful freedom in the world.

What do you think that might be?

Next week: Shackleton and the Second Law of Leadership.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Heaving to...

Sometimes, when there is nothing else you can do, when you have no control over the situation, you just have to stop and rest. At sea, during heavy weather, we call this heaving-to. What heaving-to means is to stow all the sails except for a small storm sail tied against the wind. We also tie the rudder in the opposite direction to the sail. This pretty much stops the boat's forward movement. The only action the crew will feel is an up the down motion, pretty much like a cork. The waves slip harmlessly beneath the boat allowing the crew to rest, cook, eat and recover their strength from the challenges posed by the rough weather.

Days 40 through 50 were interesting in that, like being in a storm you can do nothing about, there was nothing to do until the weather changed. So I hove-to, waiting for prospects to make decisions, waiting for a strategic partner to finish a project, and waiting for appointments to be confirmed.

There are times when we just have to wait.

In the past I would have beat myself up worrying about the seeming lack of progress. But during the past ten days I decided to heave-to. I enjoyed every day, and every moment planning, fixing equipment, updating lists, cooking great meals for my wife, Frances, hiking, visiting past clients and being on television!

Being on television - you remember Sweet Lou and Friends - was an amazing experience. I went to a TV studio where they had it set up like a living room with Lou sitting at a desk and me sitting on the couch. I felt like I was on Johnny Carson! There were two co-hosts, a small audience, a band, the cameramen, the grips, the producer, the guys in the control room, and me.

Once Lou asked me a question it was like friends having a conversation. I never thought it would be so comfortable. In the past, when I saw the red lights on the cameras I would freeze. But not this time. This time I was fully engaged, and so was the audience and everyone else in the studio. After the show, the band, the grips and the audience wanted to know more and I even sold some books. I really have to do more of this! I didn't make any money to speak of, but I definitely savored every moment of my heave-to week.

Sail On!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sweet Lou and The Significance of Day 38

When you ocean sail your very life depends on being consciously aware every single moment.

You never know what the ocean is going to throw at you, but if you pay attention, work the boat and keep her headed in the right direction, you're pretty much assured of getting to your destination. The key is to never forget where you are relative to what you are doing and where you are going. At sea, for example, we take a fix to chart our progress at least three times a day - at dawn, at noon and at sunset. When you are sailing you are hyper-alive and that level of awareness brings with it a peace of mind that really allows you to enjoy the experience.

(Awareness > peace of mind > joyous experience.)

Since I began this journey with you I've been hyper-focused on every single moment and where it fits into the bigger picture of my quest.

Today is day 38. Just over 10% of our journey is already history. Can you believe it? I don't think I have ever been as present in all my life. In the past I would have awakened on day 365 and said, "Where the heck did the time go?" Do you know what I Mean?

Since I began this journey, however, there is only NOW and what I am DOING or NOT DOING to move myself closer to my goal. I couldn't care less about the past and the future depends completely on what I do right now, in the moment, on this day.

I am working the boat and checking the course religiously. I am making progress and I am having FUN!

To remind you, my goal is to move my work from that of a single practice to a global enterprise. While I love the sound of Global Enterprise, I still have no idea what it will look like or how I will get there. I am not attached to the outcome. I am, however, fully engaged in making it happen.

I am open and present to what ever the universe sends my way - no matter how unlikely - that might help me get to the formation of a Global Enterprise delivering CEOing.

For example, I have been wanting to put video up on my web site. I really don't know anything about video production or how to put it up on my web site, but on Day 31 I wrote down, "I am very effective in person, so it would be good to be able to have people actually see me talking to them, what about video on my site?"

Two days later I get a call out of the blue from a guy named "Sweet Lou". Normally, I have got to tell you, if someone named "Sweet" anything called me I would hang up pretty fast. But I didn't. I listened to him. Then I had coffee with him. It turns out that Lou Alonso had a dream to do a talk show so he created an internet television show called "Sweet Lou and Friends." I was recommended to Lou by my good friend Joe Lam, an amazing young movie producer. Hense the call.

Long story short, Lou is a big, flamboyant, creative guy with a heart to match. Professionally he is a master at creating environmentally safe buildings and homes (working with movie stars and ordinary folk)but he wanted to do more. So he chose to follow his dream to do a TV talk show. He didn't mind starting at the bottom to create something new and he is beginning to have some success. Yesterday, for example, Stacy Keech showed up on his show and, when I had coffee with him later in the day, he was hot on the heals of having Tom Sellek for his next show. Cool.

Anyway, Sweet Lou invited me to appear on his show next week. My first Video! Sweet!

How does this fit into getting me closer to my goal - we'll find out!

The significance of day 38 is that it was another chance to take a step closer to what I really want and I did just that. I accomplished a lot today. And I can only hope you did as well. I even found time to go on a 5.5 mile hike at sunset with my Coach Fred Jorge and we have another hike planned for Saturday.

Life is good, one day at a time.

And day 39 is going to be amazing as well!

Do you know what you are doing tomorrow?

Sail On.