Churchill… And Making a Difference
Thoughts on Authentic Leadership
By John P. Schreitmueller
I received a copy of Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor as a Christmas gift and, as an avid Sir Winston Churchill fan, promptly devoured it. There are countless volumes on Churchill, in addition to many books the late Prime Minister penned himself. This one stands out, among many I have read on Churchill, as one of the best. Hold that thought.
On the threshold of another new year, I urge CEOs and organizational leaders with whom I work to treat the first weeks of Janaury as an interlude instead of the ridiculous return-to-the-war frenzy so many create after being out of the office. Forget about the meaningless lists so frequently made, and so frequently discarded as the pressure and stress of the annual business cycle takes off. Forget about taking action just for the sake of action. And, forget about all those phony schemes and manipulations you will overtly or covertly employ to achieve “results.” In reflection, how much of what you do every year represents the real you?
Consider a question. Its answer defines a root source of what authentic leaders are all about. The question is, what will you do that is different in 2015? Then, consider how you intend to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others as the next 12 months unfold… and beyond.
Important thoughts Johnson places before us in his book are ways in which Churchill made crucial differences as Great Britain stood alone before the menace of Nazi invasion in 1940. Comparing Churchill’s adversary, Adolf Hitler, whose speaking skills were dark but effective, with the manner in which Churchill spoke, Johnson states, “It has been said that the difference between Hitler’s speeches and Churchill’s speeches was that Hitler made you think he could do anything; Churchill made you think you could do anything (Johnson, 2014).”
Churchill was most probably the sole player the British had on their bench at that pivotal juncture to supply the leadership goods necessary for a victory that, in May 1940, appeared dimly possible… if at all. His unique qualifications were derived more from how he combined history, humor, the ability to confront his own shortcomings, and his authentic belief in the freedoms his nation held dear than they were from privilege, title or fame.
Now, look at yourself as a leader. It does not matter a hoot whether you are in charge of a $5B organization or a small business struggling to make its first $100K in revenue. What matters is what you bring to the table… authentically. Do you, through your words and actions, cause people to believe you are capable of great things? Or do you, through your words and actions, cause people to believe they are capable of great things? While perceptions of others regarding your abilities are important, what people are willing to do in following your lead to accomplish big things is even more important. Even if the entire employee population of your organization currently consists of only you, there are prospective clients, suppliers, and networks out there looking to you for example.
Think about Winston Churchill in May 1940. He made all the difference. How will you make all the difference?
Johnson, B. (2014). The Churchill factor. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
John P. Schreitmueller, PCC, ECP-BC, is CEO of Resolute Consulting Group LLC. Based in Atlanta, his practice specializes in executive, leadership and career coaching and counseling.
Copyright 2015 by Resolute Consulting Group LLC