Leadership Lessons From 40 Years of Polar Exploration

On some of my previous podcasts I have talked to people about how to survive and thrive in hostile and high consequence environments. My friend Steven Kotler writes about this in his book “The Rise of Superman,” in which he describes how men and women from the worlds of extreme sports, of downhill mountain biking and big wave surfing, get themselves into a state of flow to raise their levels of performance to new highs, despite operating in such extreme environments.

Recent guest Benedict Allen, arguably the most famous explorer of his generation, describes how he prepares for upcoming trips into unexplored parts of the world, and what steps he takes to de-risk the life threatening situations he inevitably faces.

Leadership Lessons From 40 Years of Polar Exploration 1

This episode’s guest Rob Swan goes a step further, by taking his 23 year old son with him on his latest expedition to the South Pole. Early on in the trip, he knows he has a problem when the silence of Antarctica is broken by the sound of his hip grinding against bone. Turning back and leaving the team to continue without him was the hardest thing Rob has ever had to do, and as it turned out the source of enormous learning for Rob as a leader, an explorer and a parent.

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While the environments we operate in are unlikely to be this hostile and high consequence, there are some great leadership lessons for us all. One that leaps out, and which is at the heart of my work, is the recognition that what got us here won’t get us where we are going.

Enjoy listening to my conversation with Rob Swan here.

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Mark Bidwell

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