Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Churchill Series – Dec. 4, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

I promised a post today about an incident involving Churchill and General George C. Marshall. I’ve misplaced the book containing an account of the incident. I’ll look for it and hope to have that post for you soon.

Meanwhile, from Steven F. Hayward’s Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity (Forum, 1997):

[Most] of the time Churchill depended on personal persuasion to get his way, and he conducted most meetings as an honest broker and conciliator. He was a great believer – perhaps excessively so – in the ability of good will and personal contact to solve almost nay problem.

There were other times, however, when Churchill would put his foot down and impose his personal will in a highly forceful and even theatrical manner.

When Churchill went off to France to take a battalion command in the trenches in World War I, he knew that as a disgraced politician, he might not get a warm welcome from the troops in the line. One of his subordinates described Churchill’s first meal with the officers’ mess:
It was quite the most uncomfortable lunch I have ever been at. Churchill didn’t say a word: he went right round the table staring each officer out of countenance. We had disliked the idea of Churchill being in command; now, having seen him, we disliked the idea even more.

At the end of the lunch, he made a short speech: “Gentlamen, I am now your Commanding Officer. Those who support me I will look after. Those who go against me I will break. Good afternoon gentlemen.”
Hayward goes on to tell what followed after that:
Nonetheless, Churchill quickly won over the affection and respect of his fellow officers and soldiers.

Contrary to the initial impression that he would be a “tough guy,” he gained a reputation for leniency and generosity with his troops. He forgave minor offences that other commanders punished strictly. He was especially indulgent of infractions by troops who had seen hard fighting. ( pgs. 144-145)