Did you miss the range of inspirational speakers, including Academy Speaker Brendan Hall and Former SAS Major Floyd Woodrow, at our World Class Leadership Summit? Here Polar Explorer Ann Daniels discusses why empowering your team members are one of your many roles and responsibilities as a leader.
And I’m truly honoured that Pen Hadow, who’s a big Polar explorer, came to see me at a later stage and asked me if I would guide him so I would lead him physically on the ice for the Catlin Arctic Survey. Pen’s the first one supported to go from Canada so he’s a big expeditioner in his own right but he couldn’t be at the front because it was a scientific expedition and he was taking all the science so he needed to do the work and Martin Hartley was our filmmaker. So I was a little bit afraid.
I’d always been the strongest physically in the team and now I knew I was going to be the weakest. See how I’ve learnt that the weakest isn’t always the weakest? I’m not as strong – these guys are big so I’m leading the guy who’s also fantastic and done as much, if not more than me, and I’m really not as strong and I did have a lot of fears. Pen, as the leader, had put me in front and he said to me, well he was interviewed and they said, “Why have you asked Ann?” and he said “because she’s a woman?”. And he said, “No, it’s because she is the best”. Now I don’t know if she thought that. I don’t know to this day, he obviously is going to say that to me, but I felt as a leader how amazing was he. He gave me the confidence, he empowered me to do the job and he made me feel good enough even though it was his expedition. So my job was to go from the front – Prince Charles was our patron. I was at the front for 73 days. Martin’s job was to take photographs. It was for climate change we were measuring the thickness of the North Pole ice cap, and Pen’s job was to drill every night and take a pen and pencil and mark down every ridge, and we were working with scientists around the world. And at first when we set off, we were all doing those wonderful things and caring about each other. So my job was to go as far as possible, so the first day it was ‘let’s go as far as possible’ which then meant that Martin hadn’t really taken many photographs’ so the next day, ‘let’s hope Martin because we’ve got to care about him’. And so the next day Martin took loads of photographs which meant we didn’t go that far and Pen didn’t get do as much drilling at night so then ‘Pen Pen Pen needs to get his project done’ so the next day we did Pen. What we found for about six days we were just running around trying to help each other. Then we sat down. And it was me that started a conversation – we’re not doing it right, because I was in charge of logistics and making sure everybody could do what we wanted. We’re being too nice. Actually, what’s the vision? What are we here for?
We’d forgotten and the vision was to take science – we were a scientific expedition – we weren’t going the whole way to the Pole, we weren’t doing that. That’s the important thing. What’s the next important thing? Well actually it’s the photographs because whilst we wanted to take the science for the scientists we wanted to tell the world to make a difference so that people would understand. What’s the least important thing? The mileage. So actually what we did then is we made sure the science was done first, the photographs second and my job was the least important, and by doing that and remembering the vision and letting go of my own pride, of I want to go as far and etc., we were a fantastically successful expedition.