Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity


Success often depends on the strength of a single quality: leadership. Winston Churchill is universally recognized as one of the 20th century's great political leaders and his words ring just as true in the world of commerce. A wise, witty, and inspiring leader, Churchill ran Great Britain like a great corporation.

"Perhaps the finest book on practical leadership ever written." — Brian Tracy

Churchill on Leadership demonstrates that the principles that guided Churchill ably ...

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Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity

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Success often depends on the strength of a single quality: leadership. Winston Churchill is universally recognized as one of the 20th century's great political leaders and his words ring just as true in the world of commerce. A wise, witty, and inspiring leader, Churchill ran Great Britain like a great corporation.

"Perhaps the finest book on practical leadership ever written." — Brian Tracy

Churchill on Leadership demonstrates that the principles that guided Churchill ably translate to private industry today. Author Steven F. Hayward gives strong evidence that, if you remove Churchill from his political context, he would have the resume to be among the great business leaders of any age. Churchill:
• was a financier (as chancellor of the Exechequer) and labor negotiator (as home secretary)
• managed a large transportation network (as head of the British Navy) and far-flung property holdings (as colonial secretary)
• persevered through bankruptcies and other financial disasters
• conceived and introduced innovative new products over the opposition of his colleagues, and reorganized major production operations in the midst of crisis.
With wit and insight, Hayward reveals Churchill's secrets for business success from assembling and inspiring a first-rate team to preparing a wise budget, from communicating a vision to structuring effective meetings, from acting decisively to rebounding from a failure. Laced with epochal events from the historical stage, enlivened with stimulating speculation, and leavened with wit, Churchill on Leadership is both an enjoyable read and a thought-provoking lesson on leadership.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Perhaps the finest book on practical leadership ever written."
— Brian Tracy
"Winston Churchill once said, 'We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow worm.' His business acumen, grounded in candor, glows in this uncommon management guide."
— Cathy Madison, Utne Reader
"This book is must reading for today's business leaders and entrepreneurs."
— Fred W. Mackenback, retired president and CEO, The Lincoln Electric Company
"Churchill on Leadership demonstrates that the principles that guided Churchill ably translate to private industry today . . . [I]f you remove Churchill from his political context, he would have the résumé to be among the great business leaders of any age."
Business Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It seems such a natural idea to distill the "management" wisdom of an inspirational leader such as Winston Churchill for today's corporate chiefdoms. Unfortunately, Hayward, who works for the think tank Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, does not deliver. He identifies four strategies that he believes made Churchill a successful leader: "candor and plain speaking, decisiveness, the ability to balance attention to details with a view of the wider scene, and a historical imagination that informed his judgment." But instead of using those strategies as an organizing principlegiving managers examples of how Churchill put those traits into practiceHayward treats us to truncated versions of numerous Churchill biographies. Except for his chapter on Churchill the communicator, there is never any analysis of Churchill's effective leadership. Even the pithy quotes from the prime minister at the end of each chapter lack a "how to" component. Given Churchill's autocratic nature, perhaps it's just as well. June
Library Journal
Strock, an attorney with a long career in public service, aims to provide guidance to those in leadership by distilling lessons from the official conduct of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The topics covered include Reagan's commitment to a vision, decisiveness, ability to learn from failure, and management techniques such as delegating, holding meetings, and setting priorities. Each chapter contains a summary of the principles covered and supposedly demonstrated by Reagan, the only value in the book, and the author borrows heavily from memoirs by former Reagan aides, appointees, lackeys, and sycophants. The effort to portray Reagan's style as exemplifying sound principles of leadership borders on sanctification and seems far-fetched at best. Neither biography nor history, this book represents a feeble attempt to derive leadership principle from insubstantial sources, a phenomenon of serious concern to executives well documented in John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge's The Witch Doctors LJ 12/96. Harried executives interested in leadership advice should instead seek out the solid works of Stephen Covey and Peter Drucker, for example, and pass on this lightweight tome. Recommended for presidential libraries and only on demand for smaller public libraries.Dale F. Farris, Groves, TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761514404
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 569,688
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven F. Hayward is a senior fellow of the Pacific Research Institute, a public policy think-tank based in San Francisco, and a contributing editor for Reason magazine. He holds a doctorate in history from the Claremont Graduate School.

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Read an Excerpt

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:

  • Responsibility must be combined with authority. Churchill's maxims: "My one fatal mistake was trying to achieve a great enterprise without having the plenary authority which could so easily have carried it to success." "What you have no right to do is to ask me to bear responsibilities without the power of effective action."
  • Decisiveness depends on the person at the top. Churchill's maxims: "Every decision must be forced to a clear-cut issue." "You must continually drive the vast machine forward at its utmost speed. To lose momentum is not merely to stop, but to fall."

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:

  • Always concentrate on the broad view and the central features of the problem at hand. Churchill's maxim: "It is a good thing to stand away from the canvas from time to time and take a full view of the picture."
  • Factor in risk and chance by keeping things in proper proportion. Churchill's maxim: "Assume that the favorable and adverse chances equate, and then eliminate them both from the calculation."
  • Keep open to changing your mind in the presence of new facts. Churchill's maxim: "I would rather be right than consistent."
  • Be careful not to look too far ahead. Churchill's maxims: "Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." "It is only with some difficulty and within limits that provision can be made for the future. Experience shows that forecasts are usually falsified and preparations always in arrears."
  • Avoid excessive perfectionism. Churchill's maxims: "'Nothing avails but perfection' may be spelt shorter, 'Paralysis.'" "Do not let the better be the enemy of the good."
  • Don't make decisions for decision's sake. Churchill's maxim: "There is great wisdom in reserving one's decisions as long as possible and until all the facts and forces that will be potent at the moment are revealed."

© copyright 1997 by Steven F. Hayward. Permission obtained from Prima Publishing

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The World of Politics and the World of Commerce–What Business Leaders Can Learn from the Great Statesmen
Chapter 1: The Keys to Understanding Churchill
Chapter 2: The Executive Churchill: A Brief Survey of His Career in Public Office
Chapter 3: Confronting Failure and Learning from Mistakes
Chapter 4: Churchill on Administration: Responsibility and Organization
Chapter 5: Churchill on Personnel: Managing People and Managing Yourself
Chapter 6: The Power of Decision: Churchill's Thought Process
Chapter 7: Churchill the Communicator
Chapter 8: Churchill's Personal Traits: The Completion of Leadership
Chapter 9: Churchill the Inventor and Innovator
Chapter 10: Substance Over Style–Moral Purpose, Destiny, and the Force of Personal Leadership
Appendix: A Biographical Sketch of Churchill's Executive Career
Source Notes

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2006

    An interesting approach to leadership

    I read it and love it, plain structure, simple wit, ageless wisdom for those interested in directing a team.

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