Scott 100 Day 103 12th February 1912 : Division

Division. Other teams on the ice had difficult conversations and volatile personalities that needed to be managed. Victor Campbell was leading a separate group as part of the Terra Nova expedition ans was now exploring Victoria Land. In The Longest Winter, by Meredith Hooper, there are some descriptions of team dynamics which may offer an insight into how groups of men on the ice interacted. Campbell’s party of six were made up of three officers and three men, a very different combination to Scott’s party of four officers and one rating. Campbell’s party spent the winter in a hut, just as the main party did, and during a friendly discussion in the hut Campbell lost his temper with the third officer Priestley. The second in command, Levick, had the role of ‘buffer’ between Campbell and Priestley, a role undertaken by Wilson for Scott. Levick smoothed the waters and asked them to ensure if anything similar happens again that it not be in front of the mean. Levick says of Campbell that he ‘means to be a decent chap’ and on the whole is. The freedom the officers had for emotion is described by Hooper as a privilege’ and one that the men did not have, she refers to them as ‘good servants in a household’ expressing no emotion in public. Hooper sums up, ‘training was deep, the men knew how to show due respect to, and keep the correct distance from all officers’. An understood, if not always declared, culture existed in these teams.

George Levick – Picture from Wikkimedia Commons

File:George Murray Levick.jpg

Scott’s Journal 12th February 1912. ‘In a very critical situation’. They started well and when they saw the sight of an outward camp they knew they were on the right track. Then they entered some terrible terrain, Scott reports, ‘by a fatal chance we kept too far to the left, and then we struck uphill and, tired and despondent, arrived in a horrid maze of crevasses and fissures. Divided councils caused our course to be erratic after this, and finally, at 9 P.M. we landed in the worst place of all. After discussion we decided to camp, and here we are, after a very short supper and one meal only remaining in the food bag; the depot doubtful in locality. We must get there to-morrow. Meanwhile we are cheerful with an effort. It’s a tight place, but luckily we’ve been well fed up to the present. Pray God we have fine weather to-morrow’.

Commentary. There was obviously a discussion about direction during the three days Scott and his men were caught in these difficult areas, but it is hard to be precise on how these conversations went. Looking at teams and relationships may offer us an insight it their overall group relationship. The splitting of Campbell’s party into three officers and three men was not the only division. Ranks within those sub tribes also influenced connections and divisions, as did skill, ability and experience. Priestly was the junior officer but with most Antarctic experience, maximising that greater experience in the junior officer is Campbell’s leadership challenge. What would make Priestly give openly and generously of his wisdom, alternatively what would close him down and make him withdraw ? But there were other, perhaps even more significant, social and educational differences between the men. Campbell went to Eton, Levick to St Pauls and Priestley to a grammar school. In Scott’s hut a physical divide had been constructed to separate the officers and men and was, in Scott’s mind, important to maintain naval discipline. There was no physical divide in Campbell’s hut, there was no need, the divide was much deeper than any artificial wall. Take that hierarchy, social class, education, ritual and tradition and rope these men together to pull sledges then force them into a small tent and the undeclared but understood rules of engagement are severely tested. The separation in Scott’s tent is often used to describe the difference between his style of leadership and Shacklton’s as he did not create a physical divide. The separation is so strong through hierarchy, culture, tradition and practice there was just no need for a divide. Handling the numerous relationships within the team is the leaders toughest challenge. The speeches that are made declaring equality, everyone has a voice, were all in this together, no one is more important than anyone else, it doesn’t matter what your background is your an equal here, my door is always open, you can say whatever you want to me etc miss the point. Equality is not the purpose of the team and inequality is their building block. Teams of equals need managers to repeatedly function, teams of inequality need leaders to create, innovate, heal, adapt and to ultimately achieve more together, not in spite of their differences but because of them.

About hutpoint

Interested in leadership, teamwork, resistance, perseverence and change. A former senior nurse dedicated to learning from and sharing with other flawed humans.
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