While General George Smith Patton was the role model to me as an aspiring combat leader, I think the most compelling leader of the 20th Century had to have been Sir Winston Churchill. He also epitomizes many of the clichés that abound in the study of leadership that he has to rank up near the top of the list of leaders to emulate. Churchill embodies everything that Gorilla Leadership stands for: Critical and Creative Thinking, Courage, and contribution to the Community.
In terms of what he Nazis did for the community goes without saying. Churchill was at the centre of everything that was going on in the Second World War and the attainment of Victory in Europe, and was instrumental in creating the peace and New World Order that was to follow. He was also at the forefront of recognizing the emergence of Russia/the Soviet Union as the emerging threat to the long term peace and security of the West. Although it is debatable whether Churchill actually coined the term “the Iron Curtain”, there is no doubt that he popularized it amongst Western Nations. Immediately after the War against the Nazi’s he began issue dire warnings to the Western Power of the scourge that was setting upon Eastern Europe, Stalin and the Soviet Union. warning about the
It is worth noting up front that Sir Winnie was no stranger to failure. His first foray in to politics prior to the First World War ended up in defeat. He held his share of key appointments in government subsequently, failing again as First Lord of the Admiralty when he was blamed for the failed Dardanelles campaign of Gallipoli fame. But he bounced back again. During his political career he changed party affiliations a couple of times, ran in different constituencies and still failed to get elected several times before he was to become Britain’s Prime Minister during the War years. Strictly speaking he also failed at his first military mis-adventure when, as a war correspondent in the Boer War he was taken prisoner. Notwithstanding his status as a non-combatant which afforded him more lenient treatment by his captors, Churchill had the tenacity to escape.
Churchill was no stranger to danger either. He started in the military at a young age, experienced battle first hand as an observer during the Cuban War and subsequently in India and Sudan. Not too long after choosing to go into politics was made scapegoat for the Dardanelles campaign gave up early on a career in the military, choosing to pursue a life of politics. Rather than take up some token bureaucrat position he took over command of an infantry battalion. Even as Prime Minister the famed British Bulldog could always be relied upon to be in the thick of things, whether is was amongst the people of London during the Blitz or on the Continent monitoring the progress of the War.
The tenacity that he displayed or honed in his early years set the conditions for his extraordinary success as the leader of the Western World in the Second World War. One of Churchill’s detractions during the interwar years was that he was very hawkish. While everyone else was naively hoping that the First World War was indeed “The War to end all wars” and, right up to the Prime Minister of the day, ignoring the clear and present danger that was being posed by Stalin and Hitler. So with the desperate change of circumstance with the outbreak of the Second World War, the conditions were perfect for the emergence of a leader like the world has seldom seen.
Volumes have been written about the man and his legacy, many of them by the man himself. His time in Office was limited after the VE Day; of course, because extraordinary leaders are a product of the times as much as their persona. A lesser Leader would have drifted off into obscurity, the subject of study by academics and military pundits. However, Churchill continued to be a respected man of the times, and the impact of his influence on the events of the Second World War and its aftermath affect us to this very day. Such is the ray of light that Sir Winston Churchill has shed on my interpretation of Gorilla Leadership.