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12 Days till Christmas Day 7. - Leadership on the Bridge and Beyond

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. 


It’s slightly strange being on a 100-woman strong leadership journey, and then finding yourself on a ship being served by a team of men, whilst the hand-picked Expedition Team is predominantly women, strong women. A welcome change, but one that also feels somewhat forced and slightly unnerving especially for someone who has spent their whole working life in rooms and out on fieldwork where men out-number women significantly.


On the Bridge. L-R: Looking out through the starboard Bridge windows onto a calm sea, hanging out on the Bridge Deck with friends, Bridge instruments.

 

At the helm however is our ship Captain George Hendry, the Hotel Maitre D’ Darren and Head Chef (also Darren). They bring significantly to our leadership program in ways that I think we, and they, had not expected. They are leadership in action. As the Expedition Team highlight in their Plan A mantra, leadership is about teamwork, flexibility and responding to what is happening around you. The idea of doing it alone is not an option, whether that is serving 100 plus meals in an hour or ensuring the laundry is done, the rooms are clean and perhaps most importantly there’s enough food onboard, it all requires a well-lead team.

 

The captain really signed-up to talk to us about ice navigation, and as women in STEM we were interested in the nitty-gritty of radars, visibility and fancy instruments; but what we really got was a lesson in leadership and teamwork. Having a team, you can utterly rely on to make the right decisions so you can have some much-needed sleep. Relying on information from those on stern-watch as you change course to avoid icebergs ahead to ensure you don’t hit those behind. To embolden those lower-ranked members of the team to challenge decisions they think are wrong and to take, as Captain, ultimate responsibility for actions taken.



The Gerlache Strait: Top: icebergs in the Gerlache making for difficult navigation in the early evening; Bottom: icebergs and Humpback Whales lit by an eternal sunset makes for a stunning, if cold, late evening-early morning for us and more challenges for the Captain and Bridge team.

 

These leadership styles exemplified by the captain’s ice navigation talk were seen across the ship. Maitre D’ Darren elevating the unsung heroes of the ship’s laundry room down in the windowless dark of deck 1. The camaraderie and friendship of the waiting staff and their ability to make you feel like nothing was too much to ask for; and the teamwork that must be required in a kitchen that’s not always horizontal or stationary! We learned as much by listening and observing effective leadership as we did from our theory and reflection sessions.


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