30th November is the anniversary of the birth of Winston Churchill, a man whose modus operandi is still greatly esteemed by world leaders today. In the current circumstances of a raging pandemic, influential people across the globe have quoted him in many a speech and interview; such is the way his time on this planet still resonates. And those aspiring to succeed in conquering a seemingly indomitable foe are now turning to the wisdom and strength of someone who achieved what they seek.
Churchill did have his faults, of course, he was human, but his ability to lead and inspire is what left a lasting impression, and that is exactly what prime ministers and presidents are desperate to draw upon now. For they need it.
One can only surmise how Churchill would have tackled the current crisis. In the words of his daughter, Mary Soames, “Never presume to know what Papa would have thought or said”, and nor should we. However it does bear considering, at least, if simply to enable those who need it to draw strength from his legacy in these tough times.
He wasn’t one to give up
One of his keynote qualities was determination. And though that sounds grand in a leader, one does have to ask at what point does determination become stubbornness? And when does stubbornness turn to bite you? It’s probably a very grey continuum that includes a good dose of lady luck at times. However, if we take Churchill’s outright determination not to be beaten by the blitz bombing, many would have found it inconceivable that a leader would put his civilians through 56 days of continuous attack… and still not surrender. It will have certainly taken determination, and probably a significant dose of stubbornness too. But when one digs a little further, one realises that what turned his stolid willpower to good ends was his ability to maintain the nation’s support.
He was an outstanding communicator
Planes buzzing night after night, bombs whistling, and explosions shaking the ground under your feet; what would keep you committed to seeing it through? To showing the enemy that you’ll not capitulate to their bullying and they’ll not break your nerve. On an individual basis, people will have undoubtedly wavered, but collectively they continued to stand behind the man who was ‘allowing’ this to happen.
And that was because they believed him when he told them they could endure it; they could fight on. He inflamed the spirit of the British nation, and inspired everyone collectively to stand strong.
We are all aware that Churchill’s speeches were powerful, very powerful. But even words can often not be enough, so what did his speeches have that won people over?
He was empathically honest about the situation
What he did was prepare them. He was frank about how tough things were. He told the nation that Britain needed to be in it for the long haul; there was no short sharp solution. He put his hand up to the defeat at Dunkirk. And he talked about the struggles every individual was fighting by showing he understood their situation. That made people believe him. They trusted him because he was honest about those things, and his honesty made his words of inspiration believable too. His words had an authenticity which enabled them to tap into the heroism inside themselves… ultimately because he told them it was there.
He mobilised people into action
Thus when Churchill called for people to respond, they were only too keen to make their own contribution towards the war effort. Sitting around thinking and mulling things over isn’t constructive after a while. Actions speak louder than words. And Churchill inspired them to act. To dig for victory, fill the munitions factories, cook with care… Everybody had a skill or ability that could make a difference. It was a group effort. Everyone was in this together.
History supports us now
And all this highlights just how powerful history can be. By learning about and researching key people in a range of circumstances, we find inspiration and the ability to stay resilient. But what is also particularly striking is that it can enable us to dig deep for moral fortitude, even when the odds are stacked against us. For when we look back at history, it’s from a position of ‘knowing’ the result. And to see inspiring leaders, such as Winston Churchill, stand up to the incoming tide, stay strong and win through, affirms just how useful a bit of determined stubbornness can be… when we do it together.