Published March 31, 2012
I first met Robert Swan last summer during an interview. I was immediately impressed by what he had done. Robert Swan was the first person in history to have walked to both the North and South Pole.
Working off of what he experienced he started an organization called "2041." The purpose of 2041.com is to wake up people from around the globe as to the need to extend the Antarctic treaty past its current sunset in 2041. One person, Robert Swan, started a whole movement.
The treaty keeps Antarctica pristine for not only our generation but for future generations as well.
I was curious about Antarctica and decided to take the time and make the trip to the bottom of the earth. Robert led the trip and during our downtime told us about his journeys and his development of future leaders, which he calls "Leadership on the Edge." His rules for leadership are born from his trips to the North and South Pole and what he learned from it. I thought I would share some of his insights with you.
Swan got excited about Antarctica after seeing a movie about it when he was twelve years old. He had a dream, and it worked for him. He suggests that if you have a dream do it, but if that dream isn't working...change your dream.
Although he led both expeditions, he believes that true leadership means not always being in front, it means that sometimes you are in the back.
He also learned that leadership means small things as well as big things. When Swan was walking to the North Pole, one of his team members was Japanese. At various points on the trek to the North Pole, Robert Swan would pull out a Japanese newspaper and gave it to his team member showing that he had respect and caring for that team member by doing the small things.
Swan believes that leaders should plan ahead and think out consequences. One member of his team decided they should double up on fuel, so they did. It was a leadership moment that turned out to be a lifesaver as the ship they had planned to use to bring them back got destroyed. The only way out was via airplane and it had to refuel while in Antarctica.-- They were fortunate because they planned ahead.
When Swan planned his trips he took people who were competent, not just friends.His leadership rule: Don't choose easy people, choose strong people who may not always be easiest to manage.
Swan is team oriented.
On this trip he took people from diverse backgrounds (twenty-two countries)and made a team. How? He believes in listening to people, telling people the truth and add a bit of humor into those encounters.
Swan has many other leadership insights but the one that stayed with me throughout the Antarctica trip was to not rush though life and to celebrate the moment.
That is great advice for anyone -- especially coming from someone what has been on the edge -- and did things most of us would never do.
Ellen Ratner is a Fox News contributor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talk Radio News Service.