Posted in Leadership

Personal Leadership Journey

When we were not sleeping, eating, maintaining personal hygiene or doing Yoga onboard, we were constantly hustling between sessions, shore landings, and leadership training for 12 hours a day. It was pretty hectic. The days were long but extremely productive.

The crux of the ‘Leadership on the Edge’ program is based on the Authentic Leadership Theory, a study showcased by Harvard Business Review. According to this theory, there is no single defining factor or a formula that can make us a perfect leader. Authentic Leadership is the answer. “Authentic leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their value consistently, and lead with their heads as well as their hearts” according to HBR. Our mission was to find our individual Leadership Authenticity.

“Our power as leaders comes primarily from our life expiriences.” -Mattias

So, the mission includes digging back into our own life stories. While each one of us were familiar with our own personal life story and knew it as we had lived it, we all worked together in teams and went through everyday sessions to share this story. This made us experience our life through multiple lenses of peer feedback. We first identified our Core Values, defined them further, rephrased them to deepen our relationship with them and shared it with our team to commit to them.

The next step was to share our ‘Crucibles’-our worse moments of our life that redefined us as people, shook the ground below us and changed our life (for better or) for worse. Crucibles play a huge part in shaping our personalities in ways which we can never understand or fathom, when we are going through it. Our crucibles define our success.  For us to share our crucibles with our teammates uncensored, in its raw details, put us in such a vulnerable spot but at the same time built immense trust. For everyone, this was quite emotional but for me personally it was emotional plus liberating. I could come to terms with many incidents in life that I had chosen to shut out or drowned in synthetic happiness.

Success is the measure of not how high you get but how fast you recover when you fall.

My familiarity with crucibles helped me reduce my recovery time every time I fell. And I’ve fallen many times in the past 3 years mostly because of my constant willingness to take risks and often risks with high stakes. But through my experiences, I’ve learned to exercise caution. The next step was finding our sweet spot, by assessing our strengths. We shared our best leadership story and our peers helped us access what they picked up on as our strengths. It was a great session right after the crucibles to re-instill self-belief and self-confidence with all those positive words attributed to you. Also, you didn’t leave your teammates thinking you are a total loser with all the failures you had shared with them. Everyone has had their moments of ‘Awesome’!

Finally, we assessed our intrinsic motivations and our extrinsic motivations and combined that with our Leadership strength to find our Sweet Spot. My sweet spot according to my peers was in Consulting. They came up with this by analyzing and combining factors such as how I crave diversity in the projects I like to take up, how I am a total ‘people person’ with my interpersonal skills as my biggest strength and how I like to travel. But funnily enough business consulting was never my thing, is what I always told myself.  I find it interesting how there is this apparent difference between how you perceive yourself and how people tell you otherwise. I guess the pursuit is to make them one and the same. But this entire process made me more self-aware and made me reprioritize my motivations. Because for me, my biggest intrinsic motivation was to ‘help someone’ and my biggest extrinsic motivation was ‘approval’. ‘Money’ was number 5 on my extrinsic motivation list and that in retrospect needs to bump-up two spots, as I see myself growing old and feel the need for a shift in priorities. That’s the thing about putting these things on paper, unlike core values, your motivations will shift from time to time depending on where you are at in life.

‘Self awareness’ is the single most recomended capability for leaders to develop.

Each one of the Steps mentioned took us about two days each and about an hour each day to complete, in between all those sessions. So that was about 12 hours of being on our feet from sessions to session. I hope that explains my point about information overload and about how there is always so much happening on the ship!

Posted in Leadership, Lessons

The Expedition Philosophy

Why are we on a ship to Antarctica to learn about climate change?

Our leadership coach, Nigel Paine beautifully explains the philosophy that rides our expedition. Below is a picture of a brain scan after sitting quietly and a brain scan after a 20-minute walk. See the vast difference in brain activity between the two?


Picture source: Nigel Paine’s presentation

Nigel says, “Now imagine what this is doing to your brains!” pointing all around us at Antarctica. Our brains are like sponges right now. They will absorb any information thrown at us instantly. The same is the case when we travel. Not just Antarctica but also the people who are present in the room this very instant have the same effect. The people whom we are interacting with from all the diverse backgrounds and also all the unique new experiences which we are having every day are contributing by magnifying this experience.


Picture source: Nigel Paine’s presentation

We are in the coldest, driest and the windiest continent in the world! Imagine how highly stimulating this environment is and even challenging to some degree. “The magic begins when you step out of your comfort zone.” Our brains are so malleable right now that we are capable of rewiring it to do anything we want to achieve! This effect will last for about 3 months after we go back before it gets set in its ways again. The idea is to make the most of it.

We are surrounded by people who are doing brilliant things to fight climate change in everyday life. A lot of us pledged to turn vegetarian even, in an attempt to do our bit for preventing Climate Change. I know what you are thinking… We got brain washed into turning vegetarian. But that’s ok! Because we signed up for it. Each one of us signed up to lead a more sustainable life and most of us are here because we already are doing so.

This is the reason we are learning about climate change in Antarctica and the leadership on the edge is happening in Antarctica and not as a conference in New York or Hyderabad.

“All the knowledge in the world won’t give you the emotional impact that Antarctica will”

-Don Kent.

Posted in AaratiinAntarctica, Expiriencing Antarctica, Leadership

22nd March: Last day in Antarctica


Neko Harbor:

As I sit here at the edge of the world, looking over this spectacular view of Antarctica, with Icebergs, surrounded by Glaciers, there is only one thought running through my head.The thought of all the people who helped me to get here. Mom, dad, Mr.S and Mr. N, my friends, Sister, Kamal for his camera… The below thought never seemed truer.

People are people because of other people.

– Bruce Courtney

This was what I wrote in my journal while up there at Neko Harbor. We also were given a postcard that we had to write to ourselves. They will reach us in 6 months or so. I put down one goal that I want to achieve in 6 months. I think it will be super interesting to see if I achieve it.

What an epic last day at Antarctica it was! The afternoon was POLAR PLUNGE time. This was probably the first time we were not sweating in the mud room with 6 layers on. There was so much energy in the room. There was even music playing on the PA system. A lot of people were kinda apprehensive about it. Some even petrified. I for one was super excited about it. But as we got closer to the door to take the leap of faith, literally, I started to worry a little. Everyone around me was passing on their nervous energy to me, I guess. And there was one unsaid belief- if you can do this, you can do anything in life! I was confused about what kind of jump to do. A dive or a canon ball… or… and it was my turn already. It only came down to just jumping now. And so I jumped. It was like a thousand needles piercing my body. The first thought in my head was ‘Salty water!’. It was cold salty water. I could not even instruct my body to reach the railing to help myself up. I tried to speak and all that came out was half eaten words shivering- “Eeh ieh sa Coldh!” As soon as we were done, all of us one by one, ran across the ship two decks higher to take a dip into the hot water pool and get our body temperatures back to normal.




I sneaked away post lunch for an hour to do a mini rehearsal, with Piano Man Zak and the Penguin Whisperer Becky for we three were to be a part of the solemn Bell Ringing Ceremony! Needless to say, my favorite part of the day was the Closing Ceremony. It felt like I was in school again. All I remember of school is March Pasts, sports day, the ceremonial slow march and hours and hours of rehearsals of that. It was exciting to be a part of a ceremony that felt so familiar and so special. The closing ceremony or the Bell ringing ceremony is done at the end of the journey in honor of the ship, the expedition and the Captain of the ship. Jumper our Expedition Leader was giving the commands while we slow marched and took our positions next to a big brass bell with shovels. Zak rang the bell, each time jumper called out a name to honor. The list included “Robert Swan, the environment, 2041 and all of us” ting ting. ting ting. ting ting. And finally, we had three bells for the ship Ocean Endeavor and we all saluted the captain while he blew the ship horn. I had goosebumps the whole time. It was a pretty emotional last day for a lot of us.

IAE 2016 299

IAE 2016 302

Post lunch we had a session with Nigel and Mattias titled- “Where are we now?” that helped us reflect on our leadership journey so far. Rob gave us a talk today on Public Speaking, filled with great tips for all, on how to nail any of the presentations, we will need to give when back home. I know I have one coming up! More in the notes.

You must be wondering about the answer to my previous question of, “What does Antarctica smell like?” from my post- ‘Iceberg Ahead’. Well, it smells like… honestly,  it smells like Red Seaweed and Penguin poo. Seal poop is even worse and considered the most foul smelling amongst that of the entire animal kingdom. That’s one fact that I don’t want to verify or even rebut.  But I am not saying don’t go to Antarctica because it smells like Poop. Antarctica actually smells like sunshine because when it is cold and sunny, you can almost feel the sun through all your 5 senses. Penguin poo is just something you will notice if you deliberate on that thought enough. It’s like being in a car full of people when someone farts. It’s bearable and no one acknowledges it and the thought eventually passes with the great view outside the window. Besides, most of the time your nose is too cold to smell it even. And there is just so much happening around you all the time, that there is no scope for anything but just making good memories.


Leaving Ceremony from Bow

Posted in Expiriencing Antarctica, Leadership

The future of Antarctica

We asked the Global Leaders of tomorrow on the International Antarctica Expedition 2016 one question:

Why do you want to save Antarctica?

And this is what they had to say:

I want to save Antarctica because…..

Posted in Leadership, Lessons

Leadership on the Edge

If you put a group of highly motivated individuals in an extreme environment, you bring out the best in them. Mediated by some of the best leadership coaches on board, we learnt how pushing yourself out of your comfort zone creates magic. We learnt to collaborate in teams and built lasting friendships with 140 people from 30 nations and all walks of life! We learnt how to overcome fear with the trust and support of your team, whether it be the fear of plunging into the freezing polar water or the fear of heights while climbing a glacier rife with deep crevasses.
Here are 10 Lessons from the Icy-Classroom:

#10: “Putting extraordinary people in extraordinary places changes people in extraordinary ways.”
-Our leadership Coach Nigel’s Book.


#9: “We might peer into the future at the generations yet unborn and ask ourselves if we are really trustworthy custodians of our heritage. Do we have the right to tell them that they can never see a whale again?”
– David R.Brown
When you see your first whale pop out of water 5 feet from you, it drives down the above point in a way nothing else can. It was surreal.


#8: Great execution. That’s what you need when you are playing great teams. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Processed with MOLDIV
Getting our knots right; Safety first!

#7:”A team is not a group of people who work together, it is a group of people who trust each other.” -Simon Sinek

Processed with MOLDIV
Team Kershaw

#6: Switch to clean energy- today!
Advocate a movement to adopt clean energy at homes, Offices and communities.


#5: “The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It” -Robert Swan OBE

An embodiment of Leadership- It is such a privilege to meet the man himself, to talk to him one-on-one over tea, to meet him during, between and after sessions… you start to see why he is admired by everyone.

Leadership is making everyone feel included.


#4: Leadership is Collaboration over Competition.


Team India to Antarctica


#3: Leadership is also about having fun, as demonstrated by our Authentic leadership coaches. It’s about striking the work-fun balance.


Mattias in a Snowball fight on the ship’s bow.



#2: “We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children.”


#1: “Experiencing Antarctica is not just a privilege, it is a mammoth responsibility to go back and preserve the last known wilderness to man. And it begins now!”
– Rob Swan