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CHAPTER 3: Confronting Failure and Learning from Mistakes
Avoiding failure in business is the route to failure. Avoiding risks in politics, however, is the route to a long career in office. A failed risk in politics is far more dangerous than a failed risk in business. In business, shareholders and customers will quickly forgive you if you recover from a disaster - think of CocaCola after the "New Coke" debacle, or Ford after the Edsel.
But in politics, partisans will keep alive and distort and magnify any failure or mistake in your career. Often small mistakes are punished more severely than disasters. Churchill observed: "In all great business very large errors are excused or even unperceived, but in definite and local matters small mistakes are punished out of all proportion." This is one reason politicians are risk-averse, and why modern government administration seeks to minimize risk and avoid failure through a mindless bureaucratic process that delivers mostly mediocrity.
Churchill's refusal throughout his career to practice bland, risk-averse politics stands out as his most striking leadership attribute. Churchill's audacious and risk-taking character was at the core of his genius, but also constituted the chief liability of his long career and nearly led to his ruin. The lessons he learned from the mistakes and setbacks early in his career proved instrumental in his future success as war leader in World War II.
The Lessons of Failure:
CHAPTER 6: The Power of Decision -- Churchill's Thought Process
War decisions offer a close parallel in form to entrepreneurial decisions. Both the war leader and the entrepreneur or CEO need to be able to judge risk and chance. Information is usually limited or insufficient to provide certainty as to the outcome of a venture. One can't be sure how the enemy (the competition) will respond. Hence almost all decisions must be made in the shadow of uncertainty. Most people shrink from risk and are unable to reach firm decisions because they are paralyzed by uncertainty.
Churchill remarked that it is never possible to guarantee success; it is only possible to deserve it. One deserves success only by reaching and implementing clear and consistent decisions, and factoring in the element of chance by some method. Chapter 1 commented on Churchill's decisiveness and the historical imagination that informed his decisions, especially his war decisions. This chapter takes a closer look at Churchill's thought process and at the do's and don't's derived from his deliberations about how decisions should be reached.
The Do's and Don't's of Churchill's Thought Process:
© copyright 1997 by Steven F. Hayward. Permission obtained from Prima Publishing
|Introduction: The World of Politics and the World of Commerce - What Business Leaders Can Learn from the Great Statesmen|
|Ch. 1||The Keys to Understanding Churchill||1|
|Ch. 2||The Executive Churchill: A Brief Survey of His Career in Public Office||21|
|Ch. 3||Confronting Failure and Learning from Mistakes||27|
|Ch. 4||Churchill on Administration: Responsibility and Organization||43|
|Ch. 5||Churchill on Personnel: Managing People and Managing Yourself||61|
|Ch. 6||The Power of Decision: Churchill's Thought Process||79|
|Ch. 7||Churchill the Communicator||97|
|Ch. 8||Churchill's Personal Traits: The Completion of Leadership||113|
|Ch. 9||Churchill the Inventor and Innovator||131|
|Ch. 10||Substance over Style - Moral Purpose, Destiny, and the Force of Personal Leadership||143|
|App||A Biographical Sketch of Churchill's Executive Career||157|
Posted March 28, 2006