CLEMENTINE CHURCHILL: “A blessing in disguise”

This entry is part of 4 in the series Clementine Churchill: The Power Behind the Throne

“Winston,” Clementine spoke with an urgency that compelled her husband to listen. “I beg you not to make that odious and invidious reference.”

I’m often asked by mystified audiences why Churchill, having led us to an impossible victory, was ousted so unceremoniously in the 1945 general election. Although there are three schools of thought the truth is simple: he didn’t listen to Clementine.

“No Socialist Government…could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance.”

Once the war in Europe was over, the Labour Party led by Clement Attlee, forced Churchill to dissolve the Coalition Government and seek re-election. Clementine hoped that with peace, Churchill would opt for a quieter life and leave office the hero who saved us all. “I am not yet ready to be put on a pedestal,” Churchill told my grandfather Duncan Sandys. Churchill firmly believed that he still had much to offer his recovering country and confidently went to the polls, dismissing all the warnings Clementine had given.

From the moment Churchill made the reference he felt support slipping through his fingers. Many who had been fighting on the various fronts were Socialists, and they had watched over the passing years as their friends and family were mercilessly attacked by the evil that Churchill espoused them to be like. ‘Papa broadcasts tonight,’ Clementine wrote to my great-aunt Mary just before he was due to make the third of his four scheduled election broadcasts. ‘He is very low, poor Darling. He thinks he has lost his “tough” and he grieves about it.’ The Socialists used his Gestapo comment to paint the picture of a two-faced Churchill, one was the great wartime leader ‘who led the nation to victory’, but the other was callous and cruel, depicting an old, tired and out-of-touch party leader who could ‘not be trusted in peacetime.’

Election night arrived and although opinion polls had indicated a slight swing to the left, none had predicted the landslide defeat that threw Churchill from office. The night before the result was declared Churchill tossed and turned in bed. ‘Just before dawn,’ he wrote, ‘I woke suddenly with a sharp stab of almost physical pain. A hitherto subconscious conviction that we were beaten broke forth and dominated my mind.’ As the morning dawned, Churchill’s nightmare was confirmed. ‘Every minute brought news of the defeat of friends, relations and colleagues.’

In the face of sad reality, Churchill still maintained his sense of irony and humor. Clementine placed her hand on his shoulder and said, “It may be a blessing in disguise.” Churchill merely looked up at her and fighting tears back he replied: “Well, at the moment it’s certainly very well disguised.”

As quickly as possible Clementine packed so they could seamlessly leave Number 10 and allow the Attlee’s to move in. The new Prime Minister was gracious to his old adversary and allowed Churchill the chance to spend one last weekend at the Prime Minister’s country residence: Chequers. On their last evening the Churchills held a party, but even that failed to soften the bitterness and humiliation of the blow.

Without the authority to lead the effort and conclude the Second World War, Clementine feared that Churchill would simply crumble. Polling Day had left them homeless, and thankfully my grandparents were in a position to offer Clementine and Winston their Westminster flat until they secured another home. Churchill had seen a property in Hyde Park Gate, and it was there that they eventually settled, and there he finally passed away in 1965.

Far from defeated, Churchill dismissed the result of the election and refocused his efforts. Churning out his memoires of the Second World War occupied his time along with painting, opposition leadership, and family life. In 1946 at Westminster College, Fulton, the Bulldog rose again and warned the free-world of the second greatest threat to peace: Communism. In the presence of President Truman Churchill spoke out in words that made most uncomfortable, but once again, as he had warned of the threat of the Nazis, Churchill was proved right, but the world was just not ready to accept it.

*This series represents extracts from the speech – CLEMENTINE CHURCHILL: The Power Behind the Throne – For more information, please visit: – or email Jonathan at:


TERRELL: The No. 1 British Flying School
How the US played their greatest role



This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Clementine Churchill: The Power Behind the Throne

‘One of the men in your entourage, (a devoted friend), has been to me and told me that there is a danger of your being generally disliked…because of your rough, sarcastic and overbearing manner…’

How would you feel if as a leader under huge pressure, you suddenly received a letter from your wife informing you that a subordinate had visited her to complain about your treatment not just of them, but of others? I think most would react rather than contemplate, but leadership is not a reaction it is a contemplated action, and in Clementine Churchill’s heartfelt letter we clearly see a leadership master at work.

‘My Darling Winston, I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner, and you are not so kind as you used to be.’ Clementine approaches Churchill honestly and courageously. She doesn’t admonish him, but her frankness confirms to Churchill that there must be some truth in her words. ‘It is for you to give the Orders, and if they are bungled…you can sack anyone and everyone.’

To point out a flaw or a mistake is certainly a requirement of great leadership however, Clementine would have proven herself a very poor leader had she simple completed her letter with the negative and offered no recognition of the pressure on Churchill, his position, and offered some form of solution. ‘…with this terrific power, you must combine urbanity, kindness and if possible, Olympic calm.’

Although there is no record of a reply we know from history that from that moment Churchill’s attitude changed and this is confirmed by those who worked closest with him, most notably his longest serving secretary Grace Hamblin who, on the occasion of Churchill’s funeral wrote to Clementine saying:

‘I pondered on what had made this dynamic but gentle character so beloved and respected – and such a wonderful person to work for.’

The leadership example of Clementine as demonstrated in her letter, stands in stark comparison to a similar warning Churchill received from his father Lord Randolph. On successfully passing into Sandhurst Military Academy in 1893, Churchill, in response to his excited letter of examination victory received the following missive:

Lord Randolph Churchill

‘There are two ways of winning in an examination,’ Lord Randolph wrote, ‘one credible and the other the reverse. You have unfortunately chosen the latter method, and appear to be much pleased with your success.’

With no consideration of his son’s feelings, Lord Randolph writes his poison-pen letter, venting his anger over an issue that the reader at first is led to believe is enormous, only to later discover how overrated Lord Randolph’s complaint is.

‘The first extremely discreditable feature of your performance was missing the infantry, for in that failure is demonstrated beyond refutation your slovenly, happy-go-lucky, harum-scarum style of work for which you have always been distinguished at your different schools.’ The letter continues in this style and later the reader discovers that Lord Randolph’s only complaint about Churchill becoming a cavalry officer and not an infantry officer is financial. ‘…by accomplishing the prodigious effort of getting into the Cavalry, you imposed on me an extra charge of some £200 a year…’

Having listed his disappointments, Lord Randolph adds the icing to the cake abandoning his son and stating, ‘I no longer attach the slightest weight to anything you may say…I shall leave you to depend on yourself…because I am certain that if you cannot prevent yourself from leading the idle, useless, unprofitable life you have had during your schooldays and later months, you will become a mere social wastrel…and degenerate into a shabby, unhappy and futile existence.’

Lord Randolph’s intention is to persuade his son to change his ways, but unlike Clementine, he has no interest seeing things from Churchill’s point of view. Lord Randolph has nothing positive to say and no interest in congratulating his son on passing into the Academy, a feat that took Churchill three attempts. Far from offering advice, Lord Randolph abandons Winston offering financial subsistence, but beyond that wanting nothing to do with him. Lord Randolph completely misunderstood Churchill’s needs at that moment. Money may well alleviate the pain of poverty, but the Bible is right that it can never buy love, and all Churchill had ever desired was to feel his father’s love and make him proud.

In contrast to Clementine’s letter, her approach elicited an immediate and positive change as Churchill could feel her heart beating through every painful word she felt compelled to write. Lord Randolph’s diatribe provoked no change in Churchill’s attitude, and no doubt hurt him and widened the gap between father and son.

While one must be prepared to point out mistakes and failings in our followers, we must show compassion and humanity. Don’t pussy-foot around the issue, tackle it head-on as Clementine did in 1940. Lord Randolph’s letter may well have had a certain truth to it, but his approach was a reaction, while Clementine’s was a contemplated action. Clementine achieve her aim in writing, Lord Randolph achieved nothing.


CLEMENTINE CHURCHILL: “A Blessing in Disguise”

When Winston Churchill lost the 1945 General Election it was Clementine who came to Churchill’s aide, just as she had done after the Gallipoli disaster of 1915

‘I could never have succeeded without her.’
Winston S. Churchill



This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Lead Like Churchill

“It is a fine game to play the game of politics,
and it is well worth a good hand before really plunging.”
Winston S. Churchill

Jonathan with Business Coach & Author Keith Cunningham

On Monday I had the pleasure of going to the Business Excellence Forum and Awards. We heard from some great business leaders such as Keys To The Vault expert Keith Cunningham, BNI founder Dr. Ivan Misner, and Travis Bell, The Bucket List Guy.

Keith, like Warren Buffett, maintains that each business needs a scoreboard, and the scoreboard gives you vital optics so you can plot your path to success. Buffett believed that if you can’t read the scoreboard, you can’t tell the winners from the losers. Sound advice for us all, but reflecting on Churchill in his time, imagine how much more important that scoreboard would have been.

If you have ever visited Churchill’s underground bunker: The Cabinet War Rooms, you would agree that potentially one of the most understated rooms is the Map Room. Peering through the glass, one is immediately struck by the cramped space in this tiny room that was of such great significance. The bank of corded telephones in the centre channel of the desk, where up to five operators would sit incessantly taking and making calls, brings the technology advancements of today into perspective. Imagine how busy they would have been, especially during the Blitz! For me, it is incredible to think that Churchill masterminded the victory in 1945 with one computer (courtesy of Alan Turing), basic communications, and maps.

Inside the Map Room

This world map represented the scoreboard Churchill frequently checked to strategically plan his next move. Keith told us that the key to using the business scoreboard is knowing how to interpret it. A scoreboard gives you numbers, but those numbers then need to be converted into actions, and they determine whether you are on the right track, or need to make a course adjustment.

There were many battles during the Second World War, and at times we were badly losing in the field. In those moments, Churchill would view his scoreboard, convert the numbers to determine how his strategy should adjust.

In business today we all need that scoreboard. As leaders we need to know how to measure and how to convert those numbers into strategy. Our scoreboard will show us the reality of how our product is being welcomed in the market place, and how are team is performing. ‘When you learn the tools that work, you get the results that are possible.’ – Keith Cunningham.

“ARE YOU KEEPING SCORE?” is part of the Lead Like Churchill Series


Lie to Me…

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series Lead Like Churchill

Bill Gladwell and Jonathan Sandys

Don’t you sometimes find you meet the most interesting people in the most unexpected places and, when you part, you feel your life has been affected for the better? This week, I have. In South Carolina, where I was speaking at the Rotary District Conference.

Bill is pitched as a hypnotist, and although he is a qualified hypnotist, initially making a living on stage, today he practices as a much more engaging human lie detector. Based-off the scientific research of Dr. Paul Ekman, serialized by Fox in the crime drama, Lie to Me, Bill creates a very thought-provoking performance that gives the illusion he can read your mind. However, Bill admits he cannot, and holds dubious the claims of those who can. Rather, he uses finely-honed skills of observation to interpret the facial expressions and body language of others.

Asking an audience member to write something they love on a piece of paper, Bill then asks five questions and from those extrapolates what the person wrote. It was fun to watch, and from the performance that was witnessed last night, I can see how easy it would be for someone with Bill’s talent to dispense with integrity and resolve to be rich by reducing his hard-studied, respectable profession to the depths of a personal get-rich-quick scheme. However, as he told me: “I’m not a con-man, and don’t like those who are.”

Today we see many different sorts of leaders rising. Some wave the banner of peace and goodwill while playing an audience for their own self-gratification, narcissism and personal gain. However, as we discussed a few weeks ago there are others, like Bill, who grasp the great privilege the title of Leader bestows, and recognize that with the sometimes enormous power and influence they have, responsibility and integrity are not options, but rather, requirements.

If courage and faith are necessary characteristics of leadership, integrity must also be incorporated to complete the full circle and steer leaders from self, to genuine service.

Attempting great leadership while lacking one of the aforementioned principles is like removing one side of a house of cards and expecting it to stand. Courage, faith, and integrity are the foundations on which the greatest leaders have led their countries, companies and people to achieve feats that few, sometimes none thought possible.

The incredible code breaker Alan Turing and his famous Bombe, the model on which computers began. President Kennedy, who, way before the means and feasibility of space exploration had been addressed, stood confidently in Texas and told the world that a man would go to the moon in that decade. Or the teacher who on Monday, will inspire a student to make a difference, whether it be considered major or minor by our standards.

All those I have mentioned were or are leaders, but it is their integrity that, in the case of Turning and Kennedy changed the world.

For the teacher, integrity is even more vital. Teachers have a greater responsibility than others, because without their knowledge and influence, Turing would never have been capable of giving the Allies an edge to defeat Hitler, and those amazing minds at NASA would never have gained the knowledge to think outside the scientific box and persevere through failure.

If you want to be beloved and secure, lead with integrity. Greatness comes through service above self.

If you would like to know more about Thought Reader, Actor and Consultant Bill Gladwell, please visit: Bill Gladwell Live.

If you would like to know more about the Lead Like Churchill leadership course, please visit: Lead Like Churchill.


This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series Lead Like Churchill

It’s great being at the top, but with ‘great power there is great responsibility,’[1] as Winston Churchill demonstrated during the Second World War.

On July 3, 1940, Churchill gave the hardest order of his career; to sink the French Fleet. Faced with a choice to turn on our former allies, or allow their navy to fall into enemy hands, thus surrendering the battle on the seas, Churchill pleaded with the Vichy Government to see reason. Britain was outnumbered in both men and munitions, and the French navy was the fourth largest in the world. We desperately needed the fleet, but the French Government was scared of a German backlash if they sailed into our ports. Churchill sent a memo to the leaders who now represented the falling Government, either send us the ships or scuttle them. The request was ignored, and so Churchill responded in the only way he could. ‘If you refuse these fair offers, I must, with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within six hours.’ Churchill warned that, ‘failing the above, I have the orders of His Majesty’s Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German or Italian hands.’[2] The French Government didn’t believe him, evidently they hadn’t heard his Never Surrender speech. And so, as the leader of Great Britain, responsible for ensuring the best opportunity for victory as possible, Churchill sent the order to sink the fleet, which he later described as ‘a hateful decision, the most unnatural and painful in which I have ever been concerned.’[3] Cabling to Vice-Admiral Somerville, on whose shoulders the responsibility fell, Churchill wrote: ‘You are charged with one of the most disagreeable and difficult tasks that a British Admiral has ever been faced with, but we have complete confidence in you and rely on you to carry it out relentlessly.’[4] The cable was received, and reluctantly Somerville followed it. The French Fleet was sunk, and this action ensured that Britain, now alone in the fight, had the best chance to continue on.

Winston Churchill showed great courage in the risks he took by giving that order. Firstly, Somerville, or indeed any of the troops could have refused to fire upon Britain’s former ally. But they didn’t, not because Somerville was simply following orders, as was the Nuremberg excuse, but because Somerville knew the nature of his leader, and he knew, as Churchill did, it was necessary. Secondly, Churchill risked dissent in Parliament and throughout the world. This action might have been considered a war crime, however, Churchill had done his best to warn the French Government, and had also sought to get as many men off the ships before firing upon them. Thirdly, the backlash he risked from the French was his greatest concern. This was an act of war. Churchill feared that by the following day Hitler would have found a new ally, as Britain later found with Russia. However, shocked though the world was by the action, none of these fears came to fruition. Parliament hailed Churchill a hero, and ‘in a village near Toulon dwelt two peasant families, each of whom had lost their sailor son by British fire at Oran,’ Churchill recounted a story told him sometime later. ‘A funeral service was arranged to which all their neighbors sought to go. Both families requested that the Union Jack should lie upon the coffins side by side with the Tricolour.’[5]

As leaders our responsibility is to act for the greater good of our people and organizations. Whether you represent a small or large entity, Churchill’s leadership demands that we put their interests before our own, even if we do face a possible backlash. If our course is honourable, there should be no fear in the response. Critics will be few, and they will be silenced by the outcome.

Epictetus tells us ‘the proper work of the mind is the exercise of choice,’ the choice to do and think right. ‘Refusal,’ to give into temptation. ‘Yearning,’ to strive to be better. ‘Repulsion,’ of lies, negativity and bad influences. ‘Preparation,’ to look beyond our decisions to the future consequences, good or bad, and prepare for them. ‘Purpose,’ to act with clarity and holding morality above all else. And finally, Epictetus reminds us that we must employ ‘assent,’ so we may be ‘free of deception about what’s inside and outside our control.’[6] These are some of the greatest building blocks of Churchillian leadership, and represent seven functions Churchill applied his mind to with every decision, especially when his choice affected others.

As we go about our daily lives, let’s reflect on Epictetus’ advice, and prepare ourselves for the hard decisions we face not only in business, but with our families and friends. We can all Lead Like Churchill, and take those tough decisions for the greater good.

READY TO TAKE THE TOUGH DECISIONS?, is part of the Lead Like Churchill leadership course, designed to inspire current and fledgling leaders to Churchillian greatness. To find out more about the course, please visit:, call on: (832) 564-3698  or email us at

Lead Like Churchill: Courage, Faith, Integrity

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CHURCHILL: The Perfect Change

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series Lead Like Churchill

“I will keep constant watch over myself and-most usefully-will put each day up for review. For this is what makes evil-that none of us looks back upon our own lives. We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from the past.”
Seneca, Moral Letters, 83.2

“This desert warfare has to be seen to be believed.” Viewing the position at El Alamein, October, 1942

Lucius Seneca reminds us that our future is inherently connected to our past, and Churchill certainly agreed. Believing wholeheartedly that ‘If we look back on our past life, we shall see that one of its most usual experiences is that we have been helped by our mistakes,’ Churchill often reflected on the choices he made, and sometimes with great regret; the disaster of the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign comes to mind. Churchill’s good intentions during the First World War led him to push forward on an action that has since been noted as one of the worst military disasters in history. The loss of over three-hundred-thousand lives not only sent a shockwave throughout the country, but it threw Churchill from his pinnacle, and threatened to end his political career completely.  However, Churchill learnt from his mistake and ensure that when presented with a similar opportunity during the Second World War he not only knew the correct facts, but would often visit the site himself and consult with the commanders in the field.

If we as leaders want to remain at the top, supported by our troops in the field, we too must examine our past. We must be critical of ourselves, but not with the intention of recrimination, instead in the sentiment of Churchill: to improve, for perfection’s sake.

What is your Gallipoli?

Over this next week, I’d like to ask you to consider that question. What challenges have you faced in your past, and what have you learnt from them?

Extract from: Lead Like Churchill: Courage, Faith, Integrity

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