12 days till Christmas - reflections from a leadership journey for Women and non-binary in STEM focusing on sustainability, climate change and global challenges- culminating in an expedition and leadership journey to Antarctica.
Images from the ship. R-L: View from Windy.com of the building storm, change in tack from Elephant Island to the shelter of King George Island, of the South Shetlands, as seen on the Ship's tracking system, N-S winds funnel through the Antarctic Sound and between Elephant Island (middle top) and the South Shetland Islands (middle left), as seen on Windy.com. November 19th, 2023.
Today we are delivering Plan A because there is no Plan B. It becomes apparent on our journey that despite meticulous planning and the booking of landing spots months in advance*, there is no definitive planning here. It’s all about “polar flexibility” as Kim Senger at University Centre Svalbard would describe it. The strategists, facilitators, and trainers here on our leadership course call it "emergent leadership”. I think of it as - making the most of what you’ve got and the situation you’re in.
Our journey to the Deep South had started with a change of plan. Avian flu was having significant effects on the wildlife of South Georgia and all landing sites had been closed. With a storm forecast and the prospect of zodiac touring also looking unlikely a new Plan A had emerged. To sail for Elephant Island. We are disappointed, but know the decision is right and we go forth, keeping Shackleton in our hearts and minds and with renewed albeit slightly different excitement. But our course changes again, unusually strong northerly winds are channelling through the Antarctic Sound and between the South Shetland's and Elephant Island. Elephant Island is no go and we divert towards the shelter of King George Island in the South Shetland's. Captain George says he’s not seen anything like these weather patterns. Strong winds are pushing icebergs northwards. We had seen our first iceberg, 300m long, the day before.
Images from the ship. R-L: View from room porthole am on November 19th, 2023, the first iceberg - seen on November 18th, 2023, view from room porthole pm on November 19th, 2023 when 8m waves were hitting the Port side of the ship.
As we have slowly and incrementally disconnected from the World's we left behind, living in the present has become the norm. There is a plan, but best not get too wedded to it as another Plan A will be along to replace it soon. The leader of our Expedition Team Claudia simply describes everything on our journey as Plan A. Today’s planned expedition landing is “the best landing you could have today” followed by a sardonic and amusing smile and “because it’s the only landing you can have today”.
This emergent style of leadership is in growing demand as the Planet responds to our wants with wildfires, floods, and droughts. The impact will be on us and our fellow planetary inhabitants and the landscapes and diversity we cherish (but not cherish enough to make the changes we need). We need a different style of leadership to respond to the challenges we face. Claudia’s Plan A is not just emergent leadership it is a mindset of positive thinking and opportunity. We need leaders with long term strategic mindsets, with empathy and passion for our Planet, and who can see the opportunity, growth and potential in a new way of thinking and doing.
*to manage the pressure of the growing number of tourists visiting the continent.