As a marine ecologist, I applied for Homeward Bound without having any idea of what leadership could mean for a scientist like me. For a long time, the word leadership was beyond my grasp, for the simple reason that the word has no translation in French. However, I embraced the Homeward Bound journey with the willingness to learn and a strong desire to make a difference for the planet.
Throughout the year-long program, I hoped for enlightenment, resisted the challenge of leadership, and eventually understood the kind of leader that I could become. My journey is just beginning.
As we have started to discover the incredible landscapes of the South Shetland Islands on our way to the Antarctic Peninsula, we are being nourished by inspiring leadership stories. The first was from our global leader and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, Musimbi Kanyoro. Raised in Kenya and inspired by the leadership and compassion of her mother, Musimbi promotes inclusion, recognition of the skills of those around her and the fearlessness to admit she doesn’t know all the answers, but will lead her team to find the solutions. She does not fear failure, but strives to make the world a better place.
The second story was from a very different leader, Sir Ernest Shackleton, an Antarctic explorer who attempted to cross the continent one hundred years ago. With his boat, the Endurance, trapped and then destroyed by ice, Shackleton led his crew on a 22-month journey of survival in the harshest and most dangerous place on earth. Due to Shackleton’s courage, leadership skills and audacious choices, his entire crew survived insurmountable odds to return home.
Despite their differences in circumstance and time, both Musimbi and Shackleton share similar leadership qualities. They teach us the importance of inclusion, and to support and surround ourselves with people who have the skills we need to succeed. It’s alright to not have all the answers, as long as you have the courage to continue to reach for your goals.
Dr. Emeline Pettex is a Marine Ecologist at La Rochelle Université in Franc and a specialist of marine top predators. She co-wrote this piece with fellow HB4 participant, Marissa Parrott.