CHURCHILL LEADERSHIP - the 3C of winning leaders

Winston Churchill became the leader of Great Britain when literally all had been lost. Europe was lost, Netherlands & Belgium had capitulated and France was on the verge of a shocking defeat. British morale was at an all time low and all hope seemed lost. So much so, as he was elected Prime Minister, more than half his cabinet was working behind his back to negotiate a surrender and settlement with Germany to try to end the war. He had virtually no support anywhere for what he was about to do.

Yet in just 3 months between May 1940 and August 1940 he turned the national British mood from failure to fortitude, registered the first war victory against Germany with the Battle of Britain and had started to make plans to forge victory.

How did he do so ? There are 3 leadership lessons from Winston Churchill in the first 90 days of his becoming a leader in crisis. 3Cs to make it easy to remember.

  1. Clarity – A leader’s first job is to bring clarity. Winston Churchill’s clarity was never lacking. He promptly articulated it – VICTORY. The only acceptable goal was to suffer, endure, fight and eventually to win and protect western civilization from fascism. He wrote this down the moment he came to office and then started turning Victory into clear specific goals that had to be met – Evacuate British forces from France successfully, defend Great Britain by air with the Royal Air Force, Engage the US and other allies into the war, protect shipping lanes in the Atlantic from german U Boats, raise the morale of the British people at home and so on. All these goals flowed from the first clear goal. Victory over Germany. What is your clear sharp easy to remember and motivating goal for yourself, your team and your company ? Is it clear ? Is it inspiring ? If not get to work to articulate sharply a clear goal and it’s sub goals that the entire organisation will go for.
  1. Communication – Churchill was given command of the British forces, the British people and the global British empire. His job was to rally, motivate, inspire and engage everyone in the pursuit of the overall goal – victory. So every month without fail he took to the radio to clearly articulate the goal of victory, share the latest war situation including wins and the frequent defeats the British were suffering, remind everyone of their noble purpose to fight on for democracy and freedom and inspire everyone to take simple actions – fight, make weapons, dig trenches, share food and support each other. He travelled to the field to address the armies, he replied to letters with  motivating responses, he called sessions of parliament to address concerns and motivate everyone. His words communicated the clarity he felt 

“We shall not flag or fail. “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”

This communication has to be done over and over again, at every possible forum, with every possible person who is directly or indirectly working with you.

  1. Commitment – Churchill had to resolve to win despite all the defeats around him. he committed to knowing all the details of the battles, to speaking to battlefield commanders daily if needed, to take bold decisions to win the war. He pushed everyone to be on the offensive, knowing that the killer instinct was needed to win the war. He pushed for scaling up manufacturing by setting up a ministry for it, created a commando unit called Special Operations Executive to do secret operations in Nazi occupied Europe, engaged constantly with American politicians and journalists to bring them into the war including posing with a tommy gun, pushing for aggressive action in Africa and Middle East and constantly driving the entire country to the overall clear mission of Victory. He constantly said to his generals “For defeat there is only one answer – victory”.

No wonder that when a British prisoner of war was captured in Greece by the germans and told “son, you have lost the war”, pat came the reply “No, we still have Winston Churchill”.

Practice the 3C of Churchillian leadership – Clarity, Communication and Commitment. You will win in every crisis.

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