Friday, July 29, 2011

Winston Churchhill's War Leadership

The Book: Winston Churchill’s War Leadership, by Martin Gilbert (Vintage Books, 2004).

Why you should care: An examination of the elements of leadership, without the business buzz words.
It’s something of a cottage industry in America. Pick a famous name—almost any name—from the past, and it’s likely someone has written a book about how this person’s leadership skills would have served him/her well had he/she been a businessperson.

This goes way back. During the roaring 1920s, businessmen could kick back with a bathtub gin cocktail and pore over Bruce Barton’s The Man Nobody Knows (1925), which portrays Jesus as a perfect exemplar of fundamental rules of successful business and advertising.

Jesus isn’t your cup of tea? Well, then, how about Lincoln? Washington? Roosevelt—Franklin, Teddy, or Eleanor? And you’re not limited to Americans. In a slump? Take a few hints from Julius Caesar. Machiavelli could prove useful as well.

Which brings me—finally—to my subject. Any number of such books have been written about Winston Churchill. No one disputes that Churchill was a great leader, but do we really need to read about how his leadership skills would have played out in an entrepreneurial setting? Yes, there are such books, like Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity and Winston Churchill, CEO: 25 Lessons for Bold Business Leaders, but at over 225 and 280 pages, respectively, I couldn’t bear to plow through either of them. Instead, I chose the pure, unadulterated account, which at 97 pages distills the elements of Churchill’s leadership skills without finding it necessary to speculate what would have happened had Churchill been at the helm of General Motors in the early years of the 21st century.

The author, Martin Gilbert, has made a career out of Winston Churchill. Not only is he recognized as Churchill’s official biographer, but as a young man he also spent years actually working with Churchill. Here’s a guy who knows his subject well. So, what does Gilbert say underpinned the leadership of the man who, arguably, saved Western Civilization? In a word, optimism. He had an “implacable opposition to defeatism.” As one friend observed, “There is no defeat in his heart.”

So, entrepreneurs, take note: Could it be that optimism is the secret to success, whatever your endeavor?

No comments :

Post a Comment