Within the large generic concept of managing the limits, to see how far you can get to achieve goals, whether anything is worth to get a result, highlights a fundamental question to consider: What is the first , the target or the people ?
This question is often raised in the world of adventure, and his answer is always key to maximize the chances of getting the goal or to maximize the chances of survival of the members of the expedition. And like all decisions to be taken in the limits, it is never easy to solve, as if prudence is always a priority we hardly will complete ambitious projects, but if the target is always a priority, we risk to suffer terrible consequences.
I think that all project leaders from different fields, whether institutional, corporate , political, social or others, should always consider this question and evaluate its good management. And I dare saying that this debate of genuine leadership responsibility is quite rare nowadays.
As passionate of historical adventurers, let me refer to three cases related to the conquest of one of the most cherished goals of world exploration, which fit perfectly with this debate: the South Pole.
– Roald Amundsen (Norway ) was the first to reach the geographic South Pole (14/12/1911) . He was a meticulous and very ambitious leader, but absolutely respectful and committed to the people on his team. He perfectly planned his expedition, being obsessed about his people’s health and moral conditions, and to prepare the return of South Polo if achieved. His men admired him with the same passion, and the result was a great success in all senses: thegoal was achieved without losing any man.
– Robert Falcon Scott (England ) was a captain of the British Army, equally ambitious, with his strength based on the organization in the hierarchy and strict military discipline. He was always distant relative to his men, a highly respected person, but not always equally admired. He did many mistakes during the expedition, and was crazy on the competition with Amundsen. Many things went wrong during the trip and had plenty of indicators that suggested him to turn back, but he desired so much the objective that he never acknowledged them. At the end he reach the South Pole, but 37 days later than the Norwegian, and failed on his return to the base at the coast. They all died.
– Ernst Shackleton (Ireland / England) is still today one of the leadership examples most studied and admired by our society. The great object of his life was reaching the South Pole, initially to be the first , and then , once it was conquered, to make a pioneering and very special expedition. But on several occasions, with the possibility to achieve his purpose, he resigned it, prioritizing the survival of his team members . He never hit the South Pole, but he never lost a single man.
These three examples are useful as reflection to understand that even having done a lot of strategy and planning in any project, at the end we always have to resolve and manage this issue.
Very clearly if we never get results, no project can be sustainable. But without the commitment, motivation, effort and enthusiasm of the people, maybe it will not make sense, and it will be sustainable in the medium or long term.
Leaders of the future (that is, everyone who does things in any field): Do you think the people is serving the objective, or the objective is there to serve the people?