Table of Contents

Extreme Leadership

Extreme Leadership

Leaders, Teams and Situations Outside the Norm

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Edited by Cristina M. Giannantonio and Amy E. Hurley-Hanson

Much has been written about how leaders and teams function in traditional business settings, but there is comparatively scant literature on the behaviors of leaders and teams facing extreme situations: that is, situations that fall outside the scope of daily experience. This book presents cases drawn from a diverse set of non-traditional and extreme leadership scenarios, offering a fresh perspective on both leadership research and management practice.

Chapter 8: Greenland: creating world-class teams

James G. Clawson

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


In the summer of 1991, four young, unknown Norwegian men set out in an attempt to break the world record for crossing Greenland unsupported. The existing record was 26 days and the average crossing time was 42 days. ‘Unsupported’ means no outside assistance, just human power; no snowmobiles, no airdrops, just man and sled. Greenland is the world’s largest island, a large bowl of ice with mountains on the east and west coasts and as such is a severe place. Temperatures frequently drop to the minus 60°C range, blinding furious blizzards regularly sweep across the ice cap, and there is nothing but ice – no grass, no shrubs, no rocks, no huts, no relief – just ice and more ice for 400 miles. More people have summited Mount Everest than have crossed Greenland unsupported. The Darden School case study (Clawson, 2004; Clawson and Lie, 2008) chronicles this remarkable expedition in some detail.The story is powerful for many reasons, not least of which is that these young men were not just giving lip service to the phrase ‘world class’, they were attempting to prove that they could indeed be the best in the world at something. Many corporations, and teams within them, claim to offer ‘world-class goods and services that delight our customers beyond their expectations’ while in reality their efforts fall far short of that lofty objective. True, there is no harm in striving – unless your results are consistently sub-par and your customers are repeatedly disappointed.

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