Thursday, December 23, 2010

It seems that almost every day there are new business books which come out discussing "new" and "revolutionary" techniques which guarantee success or improved leadership skills.  Sometimes, we can learn more from looking to the past than in trying to invent new skills. 

The author Stuart Finlay, while reading the memoirs of Winston Churchill, became struck by the personal and professional qualities Churchill employed in order to help him successfully lead his country through the dark days of WWII and emerge victorious.  The book What Churchill Would Do is a fascinating look at how Churchill's skills can be applied in today's workplace.

The book is a mix of an examination of Churchill's writings and action during and following the war years, and the author's personal experiences in the modern corporate culture.  Each chapter examines a trait that Churchill exhibited, followed by a discussion of the historical actions that exhibit this trait.  For example, in the chapter titled "Disarmingly Ruthless," Finlay shows how Churchill could be ruthless but compassionate.  To illustrate this trait, the author discusses Churchill's actions during the blockade of French ships at Oran in North Africa.  The British were concerned that French ships would fall into the hands of the Germans, so Churchill gave the French naval commander several options, including handing over the ships to the British, destroying them, or sailing them to a conflict-free area of the world.  The French naval commander refused all these conditions and attempted to flee a British blockade.  There was a battle with a large loss of life on the French side.  Churchill had attempted to avoid the loss of life, but he had to show a ruthless streak to send a message that he would follow through with consequences if provoked.

Finlay then shows that this same trait of ruthlessness can be harnessed successfully in the business world, if, as Churchill displayed, it is tempered with fairness and compassion.  He shows how at some jobs he's had, ruthless bosses who display only the negative side of the trait, have workers who are fearful and do not work for the good of the company -- but rather not to make any mistakes that might cause the boss to turn his or her negativity on them.  On the other hand, bosses who display a ruthless streak in business matters while at the same time showing understanding and support for their employees have workers who are willing to work hard for the greater good of the company.  I know which sort of boss I'd rather be  . . . and work for!

The book has 21 chapters which demonstrate the traits that made Churchill so successful. The last chapter of the book is the text of Churchill's "victory speech" from May, 1945, in which he discusses his strategies during the war and the hardships that he and the country have overcome, while not dismissing the dangers that were still present at the time.

This book combines the best of two genres:  history and business.  Times may change, but the personal traits which make people successful can be applied at any time.  Today's business leaders would do well to take note of What Churchill Would Do -- and follow suit!

Disclaimer:  I received a review copy of What Churchill Would Do from the author.

Final Verdict for What Churchill Would Do Four Gherkins, for being a fascinating book filled with personal examples of how following a great leader can make you a better leader


Unknown said...


A big thank you for such a kind review.

If any of your readers are interested in the book it is available as a Kindle download which works on PC's, Ipod's, Ipads
As Kindle it costs less than the price of a decent coffee $2.99 or £1.71 in the UK.

It is possible to download the first couple of chapters free so no one wastes money if they don't like it.

It is also available as a proper book.

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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