President, ATD Rocky Mountain Chapter
Happy February! This month we celebrate our great presidents - how their leadership permanently shaped our country. Though I know that we honor Washington for being our country’s founder and Lincoln for freeing the slaves, I never really thought much about their leadership beyond that...until last night when I went to see the movie, Darkest Hour, which depicts Winston Churchill’s struggle as Prime Minister during Hitler’s capture of European countries and imminent invasion of the United Kingdom.
As the story of Churchill unfolded, I began to understand that, though he is considered one of the greatest leaders of the world, at the time of his leadership, he was thoroughly unpopular and actually considered rather unstable. In fact, one of the Parliament members said that ‘Churchill comes up with 100 ideas and 94 of them are crazy.’ As Churchill was brought more and more news reports of Hitler’s victories, he was also being urged by the Parliament to consider peace talks with Mussolini and Hitler - in order to avoid the destruction of Britain. Churchill’s stance throughout the movie was one of hard-headedness or stubbornness - he absolutely refused to capitulate to Hitler by even considering peace talks. Churchill’s views were absolutely unpopular and almost led to his removal from office. But, in the end, his radical idea i.e. his absolute faith in fighting to the end led to the United Kingdom retaining its independence from the Nazi regime.
As I continued to ponder this story, I started thinking of Washington and Lincoln, Roosevelt and Truman and realized that they, too, faced the same challenge as Churchill. Their ideas were considered radical, crazy, unpopular; what they wanted to do would lead to the worst end imaginable. But... all of them believed that what they were doing was the right thing to do at the time. They stood firm in their beliefs (even against popular opinion) and maintained their leadership stance - and became honored as the greatest leaders in our history.
I believe their stories can inspire our stories; their message can shape our message; and their passion for leadership can energize our own leadership skills. I encourage you to take heart, stand firm in your beliefs as you lead your own teams, and know that sometimes, it takes a bit of history for people to see your own leadership greatness.
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