Of all the leaders in world history, Winston Churchill has been identified as the best of the best. His unwavering decisions during the difficult years of World War II changed the course of the war and the course of human history. One such decision he had to make was very painful, but absolutely necessary. In making it his leadership, motives and sterling character all came into question by those who knew him best. However, by making it he qualified himself as a leader among world leaders and secured his place in world history.
The British secret service had broken the Nazi’s secret transmission code and informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry. The Prime Minister knew he had only two alternatives. He could evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of British lives. This however, would be at the expense of letting the Germans know that their secret code had been broken. Secondly, he could take no action at all and that would mean hundreds were going to die. This course of action would also keep the German’s secret information flowing to the allied forces. It was no easy decision but he alone was the one who had to make it…. and he did!
Churchill chose the latter and by making that difficult decision many of those in his own administration bitterly criticized him. He was painted as a heartless warmonger who did not care for his own countrymen. They whispered behind his back and some of his own staff showed clear anger for what appeared to be a thoughtless and callous decision. It is reported that many nights Churchill could be heard weeping and crying out to God in his private chamber as he agonized over that decision, and all the lives that had been lost because of it.
He stubbornly refused to change his mind and the outcome indeed did prove to be fatal. Hundreds died in Coventry when the Nazi bombs began to fall. Yet, because the knowledge of the broken code was never revealed it turned the tide of the war. In the end it allowed many battles to be won and it let the Allied forces feed false information to the German army on a regular basis, thus confusing their efforts to outmaneuver the advancing armies. It is estimated that this one decision, which was so bitterly opposed, saved tens of thousands of lives and actually helped to end the war much sooner. Because of this decision, Churchill went down in history as one of the most loved and faithfully followed leaders the world has ever known.
When it comes to leadership, there is no substitute for doing what must be done in a difficult season. It’s true that not all decisions look like they are right in the short term. However, a real leader has insight and can look beyond the moment of emotional crisis to see what the final outcome needs to be. It is clear vision for the future, rather than yielding to the tyranny of an immediate problem, that causes genuine leaders to stand their ground and rise above the rest.
True leaders learn how to graciously take the angry criticism of a few cynics in order to do what ultimately is best for all. They are not swayed by popular opinion and don’t second-guess themselves because others don’t agree. Yes, they do tap into the wisdom of those they trust, before a decision is made. However, in the end, they must be willing to stand, even if it means they are standing alone, in order to achieve the vision that has been cast.
What about you? Do you believe you have leadership material within you that is trying to get out? If so, let me suggest a few things you can do to move in the right direction. If you will apply these things you will be amazed at how quickly your position will change. Leadership begins with the simple things and it also ends there as well.
First of all connect to and support the vision of your current leaders. No doubt they have made some difficult decisions and they need to know you are one of the few who will faithfully stand with them. Secondly, get the wisdom of those around you before you make any decision. People need to know you are a team player if they are going to follow where you are going. Last but not least, honestly communicate with and encourage everyone you meet. If people know you have their best interest at heart they will trust that you are going to value their ideas and honor their input.
When it comes to leadership, there are not substitutes. Honor, integrity, communication and trust will unlock your full potential, and the full potential of those who follow you. If you lack any of the above, it will hang you on the gallows of self-interest. Manipulation of others for the purpose of self-advancement may be practiced in some circles, but nothing of lasting value is ever built when we stand on the backs and dreams of others in order to reach our own goals. The point being, true vision is always focused through the lens of humility and honor. If these have been missing in your life it has impacted you more than you realize.
If your leadership has been held up, gone unrecognized or simply been ignored, it could be related to those key issues just mentioned. You may have to go back and apologize to those you stepped on, or wounded. You may have to rebuild a few burned bridges so that important roads of destiny are reconnected. If you are serious about fulfilling your call to leadership than let nothing stand in your way. I believe this could be a turning point for many. All it takes is a decision to begin moving in the right direction and the rest will follow.
Now lead on…. and have a truly great day!