Prof. Frederick Krantz
Isranet.org., July 26, 2019Leadership is a subject at once crucial and mysterious. It is a complex concept, and an evident reality, that comprises figures as various as Moses and Pericles, Alexander the Great and Charlemagne, Jefferson, Lincoln, Mazzini and Mussolini, Napoleon, Bismarck, Hitler and Stalin, Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky and Netanyahu, and Churchill, FDR, and Margaret Thatcher.
We feel instinctively that at critical moments unique figures of remarkable positive (or negative) ability–moral, intellectual, political, and usually military—have shaped our history and civilization. Indeed, one of the constant plaints heard today in our divided, conflict-ridden and often direction-less Western liberal democracies, is that we face a “crisis” or “vacuum” of positive leadership.In what, then, does true leadership consist? To what extent do the times produce the leader, or does the leader shape the times? And how explain the coming-into-being of the leader himself, the role of familial, cultural, social, and political formations, of peculiar intellectual and personal abilities, and of experiential, moral, and historical factors? All such individual and contextual considerations, as well as the role of imponderables like courage, vision, determination and, yes, luck, must be considered. And the key question of why some talented persons (Der Fuehrer, the Vozhd, The Leader) use their unique talents to lead their societies into demonic devastation, while others fight to preserve decency and civilization, to build, rather than to destroy.Today’s Isranet Briefing, devoted to examining this crucial, and pressing, political, historical and human problem, begins with a discussion of the greatest modern Western, and world, leader, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, the English aristocrat who in 1940 and 1941, rallying his besieged and isolated people to stand alone against the German Nazi juggernaut, saved Western civilization.Prof. Frederick Krantz is the Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
C. Boston, 1948“Thus, then, on the night of the tenth of May , at the outset of his mighty battle, I acquired the chief power in the State, which henceforth I wielded in ever-growing measure for five years and three months of world war, at the end of which time, all our enemies having surrendered unconditionally … I was immediately dismissed by the British electorate from all further conduct of their affairs.During these last crowded days of the political crisis, my pulse had not quickened at any moment. I took it all as it came. But I cannot conceal … that as I went to bed at about 3 A.M., I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial. Eleven years in the political wilderness had freed me from ordinary party antagonisms. My warning over the last six years had been so numerous, so detailed, and wee now so terribly vindicated, that no one could gainsay me. I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it. I thought I knew a good deal bout it all, and I was sure I should not fail. Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams.______________________________________________________
Viking (2018)On Thursday, 20 December 1945, the editor of the Sunday Dispatch, Charles Eade, lunched with Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine at their new home in Knightsbridge in London. Eade was editing the former Prime Minister’s wartime speeches for publication, and they were due to discuss the latest volume….In the course of their hour-long talk, he showed Eade the sixty-eight volumes of minutes, messages and memoranda that he had sent to various Cabinet ministers and the Chiefs of Staff between 1940 and 1945…When Eade … expressed surprise at the sheer volume of work that Churchill had managed to get through as prime minister, “He explained to me that he was able to handle all these affairs at the centre, because his whole life had been a training for the high office he had filled earlier to the Canadian Prime Minister, William Mackenzie King, during the Quebec Conference in August 1943. When King told Churchill that no one else could have saved the British Empire in 1940, he replied that “he had had exceptional training, having been through a previous war, and having had large experience in government.” King rejoined, “Yes, it almost confirmed the old Presbyterian idea of pre-destination or pre-ordination; of his having been the man selected for this task.” This idea was reiterated by the Conservative politician Lord Hailsham, who said, “The one case in which I think I can see the finger of God in contemporary history is Churchill’s arrival at the premiership at that precise moment in 1940.” …He [Churchill] had believed in his own destiny since at least the age of sixteen, when he told a friend that he would save Britain from a foreign invasion. His lifelong admiration of Napoleon and his own ancestor, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, coloured his belief that he too was a man of destiny. His aristocratic birth, as the holder of the two famous names of Spencer and Churchill, gave him a tremendous self-confidence that meant that he was not personally hurt by criticism. In the courageous and often lonely stands he was to take against the twin totalitarian threats of Fascism and communism, he cared far more for what he imagined would have been the good opinion of his fallen comrades of the Great War than for what was said by his living colleagues on the benches of the House of Commons.The memory of his friends killed in war or by accidents (such as Lawrence of Arabia)or alcoholism (such as F.E. Smith) very often move Churchill to tears, but so did many other things … Churchill’s passions and emotions often mastered him, and he never minded crying in public, even as prime minister, in an age that admired the stiff upper lip. This was just one phenomenon of many that made him a profoundly unusual person. … For although he was indeed walking with destiny in May 1940, it was a destiny that he had consciously spent a lifetime shaping.
______________________________________________________Churchill By Himself
Richard Langworth, ed.
N.Y., 2018… The qualities that made Churchill a leader were brilliantly summarized in 1984 by the Harvard historian Simon Schama. The first, Schama wrote, was hard work: “His capacity to absorb, analyze, and act on mountains of material was an immense asset. It meant that he delegated work as sense rather than laziness commanded. It also instilled a healthy respect among subordinates for their chief’s omniscience.”
The second factor was Churchill’s impressive grasp of military strategy – more so, … than Hitler or Roosevelt or Stalin, which is not to say he didn’t commit military blunders. His personal experience of war on four continents ably qualified him for leadership in the war of 1939-45….Third on Schama’s list was “the passion and the dignity of his rhetoric”, Churchill’s “metaphorical ripeness … The notion of anything so intellectually supine as a speech writer, let alone a bank of them, would have appalled Churchill.” A post-war bodyguard who had served in the RAF, reminded this writer: “After those speeches in 1940, we wanted the Germans to come – even though we had pitifully little to fight them with.”The fourth leadership quality Schama noted was Churchill’s “unswerving moral decency … He savoured power and authority [and] was not wartless – but his warts were just that, imperfections on the face of virtue.” This view is echoed by Churchill’s official biographer. In the thousands of documents and transcripts he has examined, Sir Martin Gilbert writes, “I never felt that he was going to spring an unpleasant surprise on me. I might find that he was adopting views with which I disagreed. But I always knew that there would be nothing to cause me to think: “How shocking, how appalling.”A fifth characteristic of his leadership which strikes me as most relevant today was Churchill’s indifference to political popularity, and his congruent devotion to principle. Modern political discourse begins with the supposition that every action of a politician occurs only with votes in mind. … Churchill by contrast was at his best when few agreed with him at all. In one of his most striking remarks, on 20 July 1936, he confessed that he would endure the “exultation” that would occur if he were proved wrong about Nazi Germany. “What does it matter who get exposed or discomfited? If the country is sale, who cares for individual politicians, in or out of office?”The belief that politicians are motivated only by opportunism is responsible for the modern climate of doubt and distrust in government – and, more dangerously, in time-proven institutions and nations. A popular lament is that we have no Churchills. Yet we have some leaders who follow Churchill’s dictum, saying what they believe regardless of the consequences. There is hope yet …
In His Own Words: A Brief Selection of Winston Churchill’s Statements on Leadership
“How few men are strong enough to stand against the prevailing currents of opinion.” (1899, 3 December, Pretoria (Ladysmith, 172-3; Boer, 77.)
“There is only one duty, only one safe course, and that is to try to be right and not to fear to do or say what you believe to be right. That is the only way to deserve and to win the confidence of our great people in these days of trouble.” 1941, 30 September
Essentials of leadership
“Avoid chops and changes of policy; avoid thimble-riggers and three-card trick men; avoid all needless borrowings; and above all, avoid as you would avoid the smallpox class warfare and violence political strife” – 1929, 30 April (CS V, 4617)
Principle vs. politics
“A Statesman should always try to do what he believes is best in the long view for his country, and he should not be dissuaded from so acting by having to divorce himself from a great body of doctrine to which he formerly sincerely adhered. Those, however, who are forced to these gloomy choices must regard their situation in this respect as unlucky.” 1927, July (“consistency In Politics,” Pall Mall: Thoughts, 29.)