Can you lead like Churchill?

lead like ChurchillHi there!

I’m back from three glorious weeks in England. So are you surprised that in my first post after my trip, I had to reference Winston Churchill?

On our recent trip to London we visited the Churchill War Rooms, an underground warren which was used as the planning base for the British effort in World War II. Here’s a picture of the statue of Churchill in Parliament Square, a few blocks away.

The rooms were left behind almost intact after the war ended, and made into a museum in the 80s. So there’s a sense of immediateness about them. Looking at the maps with pins in them to show the advance of armies, I got a sense of the challenge of their decision making. They had to make choices with high stakes over years, without knowing whether they would be successful.

We know a lot of things about Churchill’s life, but this experience really brought the day to day decisions and challenges front and center. There are three things that Churchill did as a leader, that I hope you are doing as well:

  1. Be brave. Leadership requires courage. Churchill was courageous, and inspired the British people by his speeches (Listen here) This didn’t mean he never had doubts or struggled. But he knew the importance of his role at this time in history, and that it was essential that he kept going.
  2. Get great people around you and challenge them. The museum highlights a number of the people in both leadership and support positions who made Churchill’s job easier. He expected everything of them. They worked doggedly and were deeply committed both to him and the war effort. In church you sometimes have to accept the leaders you’ve got, but you can do your best to challenge the folks you have to do their best to meet the opportunity at hand.
  3. Take care of yourself. Churchill was a larger than life personality. He only dressed up when necessary (he even liked to work in his pajamas or in the bath). He took a nap every afternoon from 4-5, then got up refreshed and ready to work a second shift. (His staff, on the other hand, didn’t get the same opportunity and still had to keep working…) He knew it was important to sustain himself for the hard work ahead.

I’ve written about Winston Churchill before: see here and here for more.

Here’s a question to ask yourself:

What can I do to become more courageous in my leadership?

And here’s a question to answer RIGHT NOW in the comment section: What secular leader inspires you? Why?



P.S. I want to report briefly on my effort to do #3 (take care of yourself) by taking three weeks completely off from work. I was able to unplug and had a wonderful time. It was hard to make the decision but not to carry it out. And I’m glad to be back!

2 replies on “Can you lead like Churchill?

  • Greg

    Hi Margaret,
    A great secular example for me has been Obama, because of the way he is able to focus on his role and objectives, without being sidetracked by the neighsayers or even outright abusive antagonists. He has remains focused on the job, the higher vision for all, which has included providing healthcare to more people, restoring the economy, bailing out the auto industry, and more. Regardless politics, he remains in integrity and purpose with his role.

  • Rev. Charles Booker

    Welcome home, Margaret!

    A public figure I admire? Bernie Sanders. Here’s why.

    1. Speaks with all the ideals and conviction of an Old Testament prophet.
    2. My core social (read, spiritual) principle as a Christian — what’s good for the least of these is good for the whole — seems to be his core social principle.
    3. Places clarity of his principles as imaginative vision before refinement of his personality into a salable image.
    4. Separated/differentiated himself from the zealotry of certain followers when he needed to do so — encouraging them to support a strong, like-minded leader.
    5. Opened his concluding remarks at the first Democratic Presidential debate with words on child poverty — knowing full well that children can’t vote, and the poor seldom do and have no means to support him financially.
    6. Does not define himself by his enemies. To wit: was asked who his “favorite enemies” are. He replied, “Wall Street and pharmaceutical companies don’t like me much”: i.e., he is their enemy, not they his.


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