The Winston Week – #6 – That All My Past Life… – A Lesson In Leadership

Note: The Winston Week, is an attempt by me to provide comment and the 3-5 best thoughts and links which I have come across during the week. I am an unabashed Churchillian, but will try and keep to the facts. Many times facts are hard to swallow, but in the end, provide nourishment for the soul.
In the last paragraph of The Gathering Storm, Winston wrote, after receiving the invitation from the King to form a new government, “…and all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial.” I find this statement extraordinary. It guides future leadership qualities that many corporate leaders lack today.

When Winston speaks about his past life in the manner of great preparation, He is referring to are the cumulation of victories and foibles which have placed him in the seat of destiny.

Winston continues to stand out among all leaders because he had the capability of learning from his mistakes. One valuable lesson Winston learned from the Great War was to heed the advice of his Military Chiefs of Staff. It was a lesson learned from the disastrous Dardanelle’s campaign during the Great War. Winston was surrounded by a war cabinet, who were detached and approved the mission and by military leaders who half hardily committed after raising concerns. After a disastrous start to the campaign, Winston overruled his advisors and drove ahead, compounding disaster and a failed mission. Never during World War II did Winston rule against his Chiefs when they were unanimous in their opinion.

When a new leader arrives, it is understood that new leaders want to leave their mark, many times like a dog who comes into a new home. The changes the new leader implements are typically the same change that two leaders ago tried and failed. Circular failure happens when the new leader has not learned from previous mistakes, theirs and others, and won’t listen to the existing employees who understand why the proposed change will fail. I do believe that some corporate heads, move from one company to another, with ideas they know will fail, stay on until vested, collect their exit packages amounting to millions of dollars. Do that over a fifteen to twenty-year period, and you will be rich beyond belief not caring about the fact that you have destroyed thousands of employees lives in the process. It is the classic “Peter Principle.”

Where all we after all that?

From my experience (in the most horrible place in the world – middle management,) the qualities that are important to lead in a corporate environment or quite frankly in any environment.

There are many more, but here is a good start:

1) A leader must learn from their past mistakes. No learning, no future.

2) A leader coming into a new situation must listen to their subordinates. The subordinates with the longest tenure to understand past mistakes and group culture.

3) A transparent and clear path must be put forth.

4) Space must be created for innovation and celebration for failure.

5) Trust must be gained with employees, so they feel comfortable with bringing issues and failures to your attention.

6) Listen, listen, listen and follow up.

Much has been written about servant leadership and diverse leadership. They rarely work. Honesty, putting value into advice and feedback from your employees, rewarding success and rewarding failure when new things are tried is the formula for success.

Here are a few links and photos from last week:

What We Learned From Gallipoli

Churchill’s Navy – Podcast

Lincoln, Churchill, and Statesmanship


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