Lead Like Churchill

The recent movies, Darkest Hour and Dunkirk, have served to re-introduce one of the world's most respected leaders, Sir Winston Churchill.  In a recent issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine, Pulitzer Prize winning author, John Meacham, outlines three defining principles of Churchill’s leadership. These are principles that we can apply to our own work, departments, and personal leadership.

Churchill quoted Aristotle who stated that courage is the most important virtue, for it guarantees all the others. It was his display of courage and indomitable spirit in the face of seeming defeat, that motivated the English people, and encouraged his allies to join him in the fight.

Churchill believed that leaders should always level with their followers. This allows them to see the world from the leader’s perspective.  The following quote about the British people, can be said of the people that we have a responsibility to lead, “There is no worse mistake in public leadership than to hold out false hopes soon to be swept away. The British people can face peril or misfortune with fortitude and buoyancy, but they bitterly resent being deceived or finding that those responsible for their affairs are themselves dwelling in a fool’s paradise.”

Churchill knew that he would never be able to beat Hitler alone. He needed alliances. Having an ally is crucial, as without alliances things will begin to fall apart.  Not only should we seek alliances for our own ideas, organizations, and people but we must also be willing to ally with others in support of their ideas, organizations, and people. Churchill said, “ cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by it agonies and inspired by its causes.”

It is in the demonstration of these three principles that Sir Winston Churchill is remembered as a great leader. He was a man of broad vision, unquenchable courage, and unbreakable will - traits we could all use more of.