World News. On this day in 1912 Amundsen and his men, who had struggled through storms during their trip onboard The Fram, sailed into Hobart. Amundsen went ashore alone, booked into a small room in a local hotel and began the process of telling the world the news that the pole had been attained. The control of the news was as thought through as any press release, coded messages to his brother and isolating his men by keeping them onboard meant the news was his to control and share. Mixed feelings followed and while the British saw Amundsen as ‘underhand’ with his tactics of misleading and secrecy his fellow countrymen were not over excited by his success. Something in the manner and style didn’t fit well with the sensitivities of the age. But Amundsen’s success created other ripples. The great Norwegian explorer Nansen, The Fram was his ship, publicly congratulated Amundsen but privately wished Scott had succeeded. However, Huntford reports that Nansen was having an affair with Scott’s wife and so responses and reactions are complex and involved and the truth behind the headlines are unclear. Shackleton was one of the few to publicly congratulate Amundsen. Kathleen Scott raged at this and wished Shackleton ‘annihilation’ for she believed his support of Amundsen was more his joy in Scott’s failure. Terra Nova arrived in New Zealand on April 1st and now the world also knew that the last news on Scott was he was 150 miles from the pole and going well. Even though Amundsen’s news of success had traveled the world his legacy was still linked to Scott’s performance and as Huntford puts it, ‘as long as Scott appeared alive Amundsen’s victory was complete’.
Scott’s Journal 7th March 1912. Scott begins.’a little worse I fear. One of Oates’ feet very bad this morning; he is wonderfully brave. We still talk of what we will do together at home’. They made 6 miles yesterday and are making slow progress today, Scott is worried that they may only find the correct portion of food at the next depot and that may be enough to get them to their next depot but not to One Ton. Scott hopes the dogs have been out and resupplied the depots but is worried there may be a shortage of fuel again which would leave them with ‘little hope’. Scott concludes, ‘one feels that for poor Oates the crisis is near, but none of us are improving, though we are wonderfully fit considering the really excessive work we are doing. We are only kept going by good food. No wind this morning till a chill northerly air came ahead. Sun bright and cairns showing up well. I should like to keep the track to the end’.
Commentary. Telling the story is vital. Both Scott and Amundsen understood this and knew how the media and the world institutions needed to be managed. Managing the message is not a new requirement of leaders, it is as ancient as any lasting tale of great effort, sacrifice or success. While everyday organisational leadership may not involve press release, world events or life and death moment it can influence in a particular way. Making the story compelling, engaging and personal are all essential attribute of the leaders narrative. The powerful story contains facts and truth but touches us because we relate, understand, sense and respond. The facts are not the lists of events and the truth is not just the telling of what happened. It is how we respond emotionally and how that feeling impacts beyond the telling. For the leader this becomes a medium in which energy, committment and discretionary effort are released within the team and deployed to the task. Therefore the task is no longer a cold organisation objective but a real emotive connection that has purpose and meaning. The leader should be aware of the risks associated with the story. If at any point the narrative becomes disingenuous, false, corrupted or manipulated then the leader will loose more than support but could destroy morale and the function of the team. Remain principled and share truthful narratives and the emotive nature of human beings will engage and behaviour will be influenced.