Leadership Lessons from the Edge of the World

Rachael Robertson

Rachael Robertson

Antarctic Expedition Specialist

Imagine leading your team through months of darkness and freezing temperatures of -35-degree Celsius with only each other for company and no way in our out. That was the challenge Rachael Robertson undertook, successfully leading a year-long expedition to Davis Station, in the toughest workplace in the world – Antarctica. She was the youngest, and one of only two women, to lead such a mission, where even the little details like whether bacon should be cooked soft or crispy, could potentially have derailed a $20 million research program. In this session, Rachael shared the leadership lessons she learnt and the tools of teamwork she employed to help companies move their businesses forward and navigate the future.


Key Takeaways

Recruit for personal attributes–

Recruit for personal attributes

Attributes such as empathy, resilience and integrity must be an inherent trait of new hires because these attributes cannot be taught or learnt as quickly as the technical aspects.

Respect trumps harmony–

Respect trumps harmony

Focusing on harmony can create an illusion of resilience, whereas, fostering a culture of respect for other team members, their ideas and opinions drive innovation.

Focus on capabilities, not gender–

Focus on capabilities, not gender

Having a critical mass of women within teams draws attention away from gender and towards the qualifications, experiences and capabilities they bring to the table.

Empower staff to make their own decisions –

Empower staff to make their own decisions

Leaders are moving from the instruct and correct approach to allowing employees to make informed decisions independently, thereby, breeding leaders, not followers.