ILA Podcast

Why Haven’t You Heard of Roald Amundsen?

Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders

with Martin Gutmann


Quotes From This Episode

  • “I can’t think of another human activity in which one person’s success stands so far above that of all the other contenders…he is the absolute superstar. He’s the outlier in terms of polar exploration.”
  • “The other thing I’d say about historical cases is often we can be more accurate in assessing the role of the leader versus contributing factors in the successful or unsuccessful outcome. Because we have the perspective of time, so we have a more neutral mindset. But in many cases, there are also better sources available. And we’ve had time to look at those sources. And we can see the long term implications of the decisions that were made.”
  • “When we think of expeditions, we think of the leader standing at the helm, shouting directions and waving at his crew as the ship weaves in and out of the ice. We think of movement and danger and split-second decisions. In navigating the Northwest Passage, the real challenge was wintering. You know, this waterway froze solid. There are only about one to three months, if you are lucky, where you can move. So you had to expect to spend nine to 11 months frozen in place.”
  • “He made a point to avoid what he called irksome discipline. And he picked individuals who had particular skillsets so that they could have a sense of autonomy and ownership over a particular domain of the expedition. So one of the guys he took with had no meaningful arctic skills. But he was super jolly and he was a great cook.”
  • “And when we look at what he does, he’s an authentic leader long before this becomes an ‘in’ concept. And he knew that he would be stuck with these men in this cramped space for years. So they were not just his subordinates and his employees, they were his friends. They were his family.”

About the Guest

Martin Gutmann is a lecturer at the Lucerne School of Business, Switzerland. He was previously the Managing Director of ETH Zurich’s Swiss School of Public Governance and Professor at the American Graduate School of Business, Switzerland.

Gutmann has a Ph.D. in History from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, USA and an Executive MBA from IE Business School, Spain. His writing has appeared in Journal of Contemporary History, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Journal of Modern European History, and Journal of Contemporary European History.

Host Scott J. Allen

Scott Allen

Scott J. Allen, Ph.D., is the Standard Products—Dr. James S. Reid Chair in Management at John Carroll University. He is an associate professor and teaches courses in leadership, management skills, and executive communication. He is also a communications coach, consultant, author, podcast host, and entrepreneur. For almost two decades, he’s worked with clients to improve their leadership and communication skills. Learn more about Scott here.

About Phronesis

Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders offers a smart, fast-paced discussion on all things leadership. Scott and his expert guests cover timely, relevant topics and incorporate practical tips designed to help you make a difference in how you lead and live.