Matthew Beardmore-Gray faces his ‘Antarctic’: modelling for life drawing classes (picture included!)

“For scientific leadership, give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems to be no way out, get on your knees and pray for Shackleton.”Sir Raymond Priestley

“Not a life lost and we have been through Hell.”Sir Ernest Shackleton

When the Endurance expedition got stuck in the ice, Shackleton demonstrated incredible leadership in succeeding in the seemingly impossible task of getting each and every member of his crew home safely. It is these leadership qualities that the Shackleton Foundation seeks in those awarded funding: inspirational leaders striving to make a difference to the less advantaged. A number of Leaders received a grant from the Shackleton Foundation, and we want to find more fantastic social projects to award seed-funding.

2014 marks the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famed trans-Antarctic Endurance mission. The Shackleton Foundation is celebrating Shackleton’s legacy of endurance and leadership by running the ‘My Antarctic’ campaign. The campaign aims to raise the profile of and fundraise for the Foundation’s work with leaders and social entrepreneurs who are making a difference to the lives of people in need and to local communities.

In order to fundraise our fantastic trustees are taking on their own ‘Antarctic’ challenge. The Shackleton Foundation believes everyone has an ‘Antarctic’. This is a personal challenge you have, something that maybe scares you, but a challenge you would also secretly love to conquer.

The first of our trustees to step up to the plate was Matthew Beardmore-Gray, whose great great uncle, William Beardmore, employed Shackleton at his Glasgow Shipyards and was one of the major sponsors for the Nimrod expedition. The Beardmore Glacier was named in his honour. Matthew took on the very daunting task of posing nude for a life drawing class!

A drawing of Matthew from his ‘My Antarctic’ challenge

1. Why did you choose posing for a life drawing class as ‘your Antarctic’?

Last year I had major problems with one of my legs involving two operations and six months on crutches including a six week period confined to bed. Whilst I have recovered a physical challenge was not appropriate!  I sat down and analysed three of my greatest fears:

  • Nude Modelling
  • Snake handling
  • Being buried Alive

I phoned several Zoos but in today’s environment no-one was willing to offer a snake opportunity. Being buried alive for half an hour was just “too much” for me – I was just not prepared to do this. So that left Life Classes; even that wasn’t easy. They all said no saying they needed professional models who could devote up to 2 weeks. Fortunately I was introduced to Spirited Bodies run by Esther Bunting.

2. Did you do any preparation, and how did you feel leading up to the challenge?

My preparation was meticulous. All excess Nasal hair was removed, toenails clipped and a “lite” Brazilian endured.

Most important were two large glasses of the replica Shackleton Whisky which I had purchased earlier in the year.

3. What were your thoughts during the challenge?

The session lasted for two hours. There were 8 of us and 2-3 of us would form a “tableau” for a 15 min pose with the others drawing & then the roles would be reversed. I ended up doing about 4 different poses.

My thoughts – 15 minutes is a bloody long time!!  Absolutely exhausted at the end of it.

4. Now you have completed the challenge, how do you feel? Would you do it again?

It sounds a bit pathetic but I do feel a bit chuffed about it.

I have signed up for another workshop in August. My main interest is to improve my drawing skills because I discovered I could only do “Bottoms” so I am looking to extend my range .

Let’s keep it in perspective with all the horrible things that are happening in the World taking your Kit off for 2 hours should not be that hard

Now Then Where did I leave that whisky …………………..

Find out how you can get involved, and take on your own ‘Antartic’.


Dr R Kabaliswaran, Management Professor, NYU Stern Business School on Shackleton

When I designed and rolled out a capstone course on leadership in the NYU Stern MBA program, I made sure I included a case on Ernest Shackleton. Several years later, I still use his story as the first of several biographical case studies on great leadership in my course.

Great leaders, I learnt from my research, follow the parameters of what I call the Triple “E” Kabi Leadership Paradigm: they envision; they energize; and they execute.

I notice that the triple parameters that make up the act of leadership are precisely and simultaneously calibrated in the case of more effective leaders.  Shackleton is a fine example of the three leadership parameters working together in balletic precision. He knew, after Browning, that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. This explains the audacity of his initial vision to conquer the Antarctic. He also knew, after Napoleon, that an army marches on its stomach. That’s why he chose to retreat as he wrote in his journal: Death lay ahead. Food lay behind. That’s a true hallmark of great leaders. They push their followers but not beyond the point of no return. They don’t confuse leadership with martyrdom. They understand that leadership is a not a person but a phenomenon wherein the leader and the followers discover their mutual dependence and shape their collective fate. They understand the symbiosis.


Shackleton, like all great leaders, was so tuned not just to his internal environment of machine, men and their many moods but also to the external environment of the fickle and ferocious Antarctic. And he adapted his vision to align with those forces.  That’s why he changed his original vision of reaching Antarctic ahead first to one of traversing it first, and still later, to one of surviving the ordeal and returning home with not a life lost. Yes, there is a fourth E. Great leaders know when to exit!

I see Shackleton audacious enough to dare, tenacious enough to persist, but realistic enough to adapt. He tweaks his vision to align with what is possible. His story is one of heroic failure rather than plebian success. The very sweep and scope of the failure makes his story a stirring tale of leadership.

Shackleton’s story is a great lesson on how to envision, energize, and execute, and when to exit and realign the vision. The story is a hundred years old, but its wisdom, fresh as the day.

‘In the Footsteps of Polar Giants’ | A Lecture in Aid of the Shackleton Foundation

Held on Tuesday 23 April 2013 at the Royal Geographic Society

Thanks to everyone who attended ‘In the Footsteps of Polar Giants’, our lecture at the Royal Geographic Society on the 23rd April. The event was a huge success! Henry Worsley delivered an inspirational presentation and the event raised over £19,000 for the Shackleton Foundation. Thanks also to Novae Insurance who generously sponsored the lecture. Read More »