Sir Ernest Shackleton had a knack for quickly recognizing personality types — a trait of almost every great leader. His uncanny ability to navigate not only the high seas and treacherous mountains but the pitfalls of personal quarrels just as well, was indispensable for the survival of the crew.
Tent assignments might seem like a trivial task, and you could use so many physical metrics to guide your decision — size of the people assigned, for example, to ensure as much comfort as possible. But Shackleton paid attention to something more ephemeral — personalities. His decision to assign all the possible troublemakers to his tent was nothing but a stroke of genius. And he went even further, often sacrificing his personal beliefs and comfort, just to keep the rabble-rousers content. Padding egos was not easy for someone of his stature and experience, but he understood that it is a sacrifice that has to be made for the greater good.
As someone who completed two full deployments onboard a US Navy vessel, I know from experience how important it is to establish proper crews — a task we would deliberate with leadership for weeks before the beginning of the deployment just to ensure a smooth beginning in the most trying times of the early weeks of the cruise.
I cannot even begin to imagine how crucial it was to the survival when stuck on floes in one of the most dangerous places in the world. But once again, Shackleton did not lose his cool, and managed to spin the situation in a way that ensured the least possible amount of friction.