Monday November 14, 2011
by Sam Gardner, Account Manager, talenttoolbox
The first two minute silence was held on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1919. In this month, of the 11th year of this millennium, we again fell silent and remembered all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Regardless of how we feel about wars, both past and present, I believe that there is a lot to be learned from leaders in such circumstances. To lead in times of conflict is not an enviable role, but to do so successfully is a master class in people management, engagement and figure heading. A leader I believe excelled at this was Winston Churchill. He is a fascinating example of how, should you nurture the right characteristics, even when it looks unlikely that you will succeed, you can.
Churchill became prime minister some 40 years after first entering parliament, and it was not a smooth road to office - alienating many citizens with his involvement in affairs such as Rhondda Valley, Gallipoli, Ireland and India. Impressively, even in the worst of times, his passion and charisma meant that even when unpopular, people still wanted to know what he thought and thus voted him to be our country’s leader. How? I believe it’s because of four key characteristics; characteristics which aspiring leaders should aim to develop within themselves:
- Proactivity: great leaders are constantly looking forward and outward
Churchill was visionary and strategic in his thinking; a trait found in most great leaders. His proactive approach meant that he never gave up. Even when no one wanted to think about another war and appeasement seemed the best idea, he continued to do his research and warn of the need to re-arm. While his contemporaries looked inward, Churchill’s knowledgeable vision and clear strategy was constantly enforced by him, looking outwards to the real world. By taking this approach in the workplace, the company’s vision, mission and values will infiltrate throughout the organisation ensuring everyone embraces and adopts it. This is certainly what happens here at learnpurple and it makes us to feel valued and vital to the success of the organisation.
- Communication: being a great communicator with clarity and confidence
Churchill had the ability to communicate complex issues in a way that made sure the entire nation understood. Ultimately he kept it simple, clear and direct. This is fundamental when attempting to gain the trust of others around you; they need to understand, relate to, and believe in what you’re saying to them or what you’re telling them to do. Good leaders trust the people around them to take on board the information and act upon it accordingly. ‘Purple Your People’ states that a leader needs to be confident and articulate, which are traits that Churchill had in abundance.
- Decisiveness: problem-solving and decision-making are important traits in any leader
Churchill was able to bring about progression by being decisive – he knew he had to make hard decisions on a daily basis and live by that decision. When Churchill came to office in 1940, there had been a long period of passiveness and waiting on the decisions of others. His approach of creating circumstances in which the nation could have control helped remove the splintering of opinion and gave the country a figurehead to stand behind.
- Courage: all leaders need courage to make calculated risks and face harsh challenges
This is my favourite type of leadership characteristic because, to quote Winston Churchill, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all others”. Great leaders make bold decisions and are brave in the face of adversity; however they trust others around them to follow their courageous approach and trust that they are making the right decisions.
Winston Churchill embodied these four key characteristics of great leadership. World War II ended sixty six years ago and yet these are just as relevant for today’s business leaders as they were for him during those troubled years. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that ultimately all of the above comes down to being confident that you can deliver what you promise and, what’s more, understanding that you can’t always choose what happens, but you can always choose your response.
Which leader inspired you in troubled times? What characteristics of leaders impress you?