When we think of strong leadership, who and what do we think about?
The autocratic manager, brain-dead and morally corrupt politician, or the scheming and maniacal James Bond villain?
Rather, we tend to envision a person of strength and vision who commands the respect of his friends and foes alike.
There have been numerous men and women such as this who have shaped today's world, but one who seems to top the charts is a man who radically changed the outcome of World War II.
Rather predictably, this man was Winston Churchill. Churchill is famously known as a man with many odd habits and predispositions; yet he almost single-handedly carried his nation through the most trying war of its history.
Here are a few of the many lessons we may glean from this magnificent man's life.
A Leader must Inspire Confidence
During "The Blitz" of 1940 and 1941, when Germany bombed London and the surrounding area multiple times a day for months, Churchill rose to the occasion.
He liked to watch the enemy bombers come in, and thoroughly enjoyed the crash and crump of the bombs, and the crack of the anti-aircraft guns. He relished the entire spectacle. Four decades earlier he had quipped that nothing in life quite so exhilarates as “being shot at without result.” When the sirens sounded, Churchill chose between sitting underground watching dust shake out of the rafters and going forth into the raids. Out he went.
Reid, Paul; Manchester, William. The Last Lion (p. 245). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
While this attitude and act caused extreme stress for his wife and security team, the people of London recognized that this man was not going to use his high office to insulate himself from the ruin his countrymen were enduring.
Confidence is just as much of an act as it is an attitude. We can conclude that Churchill's somewhat eccentric mannerisms predisposed him to acts such as this, which the vast majority of us would not even consider. But what he did created a template for what we are able to do today.
When the bombs fall, don't hide.
Strong, Honorable, And Courageous Leaders Do Not Appease The Enemy.
Just two years prior, Neville Chamberlain, who was Prime Minister at the time, stood before a crowd of cheering Britain's as they sung "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".
Chamberlain had just returned from Germany with Hitler's signature on what he saw as a pivotal document. It was an agreement, called "The Munich Agreement".
Waving the piece of paper he and Hitler had signed, he called to the dense throng below: “My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.”
Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Volume 2 (p. 486). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
Within the agreement, Britain and Germany established their intentions to:
Value the Anglo-German diplomatic relationship.
Maintain peace, with the intent "never to go to war with one another again".
Consult with one another on questions "that may concern our two countries".
Fearing war with Germany, Neville and his collogues proudly termed themselves "appeasers". They believed that if they fed the hungry animal that was Nazi Germany, the beast would leave them alone.
What Neville failed to mention, was that in signing this agreement they had consented to the annexation of critical parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany.
This, to keep the timeline in mind, this happened just months after Hitler's annexation of Austria as well.
Chamberlain had just signed the document that made World War II inevitable in the name of appeasement.
The German generals, who had been sweating blood, could scarcely believe their good luck. They were unanimously agreed that had the British and French stood up to Hitler, and had Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, the Reich would have been swiftly defeated.
All this came out at Nuremberg. Keitel, chief of the OKW, testified: “From a purely military point of view we lacked the means for an attack which involved the piercing of the [Czech] frontier fortifications.”
Fritz Erich von Manstein, Germany’s most brilliant field commander (and not a defendant at Nuremberg), said that “had Czechoslovakia defended herself, we would have been held up by her fortifications, for we did not have the means to break through.”
And Alfred Jodl, the key general at OKW, taking the witness stand in his own defense, told the International Military Tribunal: “It was out of the question with five fighting divisions and seven reserve divisions in the western fortification [Siegfried Line]… to hold out against 100 French divisions. That was militarily impossible.”
Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Volume 2 (pp. 482-483). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
Lord Lloyd, who had been in the roaring throng outside No. 10, remembered feeling “elated” until Chamberlain said “peace with honor.” Then “my heart sank; it was the worst possible choice of words, for I realized that he had sold honor to buy peace.”
Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Volume 2 (p. 487). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
Through his willingness to forsake Czechoslovakia Neville gave Hitler the opportunity to seize Europe one Country at a time.
Appeasement doesn't work.
You Cannot Lead Without A Stated Goal
While in today's American society we see the gesture being shown by Churchill above as the "peace" symbol superficially used by hippies and anti-war protesters, it had a much deeper meaning to Britain's during World War II. The gesture was actually designed to form a "V" for victory.
Victory was the focal point of Churchill's vision for the Allied Powers. In stark contrast to his predecessors Churchill believed in "Pax Britannica". Peace through the power of the British Empire.
Churchill began his 3rd day in office as Prime Minister before the House of Commons with this exhortation:
“You ask, what is our aim? I answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire” and all it has stood for, “no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward toward its goal.”
Reid, Paul; Manchester, William. The Last Lion (p. 80). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
The former Prime Ministers of the past decade lied to the people. They ignored the blatant expansion of Nazi Germany and even aided Hitler in his pursuits.
Now it was time to clean up.
Written by Donnie Emmack