‘Happy are the painters,’ he wrote, ‘for they never shall be lonely: light and colour; peace and hope will keep them company to the end— or almost to the end of the day.’
Churchill painting in his studio at Chartwell
More than a hobby, painting to Winston Churchill was oxygen, and it literally saved his life. “I thought he would die of grief,” Great-Grandmamma confided in her husband’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, when speaking about the disaster of the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign. ‘Many remedies are suggested for the avoidance of worry and mental overstrain,’ Churchill wrote in his essay Painting as a Pastime, but the ‘cultivation of a hobby and new forms of interest is,’ as he continued, ‘a policy of first importance,’ but, ‘not a business that can be undertaken in a day or swiftly improvised by a mere command of the will.’
‘Distant View of Eze’ Winston S. Churchill
Churchill began to cultivate his hobby while serving on the French Front during the First World War. Using broad and courageous strokes, as instructed by fellow artist Hazel Lavery, he began to attack the canvas with ‘fierce strokes and slashes of blue,’  noting with delight how the canvas cowered before him.
‘The colours are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out.’ Little did Great-Grandpapa know that painting was not only a remedy for depression, but a skill for leadership; one that cultivated his mind to draw out the best in those around him. As leaders, we need to look for the positive in people, and encourage it, while helping to resolve the negative we find. The result of this attitude particularly on a workforce could be phenomenal, and as it did for Churchill, reduced staff-turnover.
JANUARY 18, 2017
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CHURCHILL: The 20th Century’s Greatest Leader
An overview of Sir Winston Churchill’s leadership and the
introduction to the Lead Like Churchill leadership course
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My great-grandfather would often argue with his longtime bodyguard, Walter Thompson, on whether he should hide in the bunker when the bombs were dropping on London. I have asked these people to risk everything, he said. How can I possibly expect them to take these risks if I too am not prepared to do so?
Churchill often stood atop the government buildings and watched as the Luftwaffe mercilessly bombed his people below. “You do your worst,” he told Hitler. “And we will do our best!”
Leadership is from the front, not the back, hence the reason it’s called ‘leadership’, and not followship.
Churchill, unlike Hitler, had faith that the cause he was representing was right. Instead of hiding away in the London bunker when the bombs were dropping throughout Britain, Churchill chose to stand with his people as a beacon of hope. Hitler, in contrast, shut himself away from the German people he claimed to represent. In his bunker, Hitler lived in a private world of his own, from which the ugly and awkward facts of Germany’s situation were excluded.
Following the bomb raids, Great-Grandpapa would visit the worst hit. At great personal risk, and against all advice from his bodyguard Commander Walter Thompson, Churchill would mingle with the crowds, comfort those who had lost family, friends and property, and was even found holding the hand of a woman who was trapped beneath the rubble. Once freed, the woman reluctantly let go of Churchill’s hand, and as he watched her disappear on a stretcher into an awaiting ambulance, he remarked to the gathered people, “There goes a true hero!”
Hitler refused to visit the bombsites of Germany. his deep psychological compulsion to appear the great leader aloof from the suffering of his people, but busy fighting for them, was a disguise for the deeper-rooted truth that he could not face. He refused to read reports which contradicted the picture he wanted to form. He chose to believe the Goebbels propaganda, not because negative thinking might breed negative results, but instead because reality might confront him with the enormity of what he had done. Evil finds it hard to look itself in the mirror, but the reflection of good, while showing reality, shines a ray of hope.
Great leaders are great leaders, only because they represent great causes that are not in contradiction to ethical and moral values. When one compromises ethics, the slope become slippery, and, as with Hitler, we lose our footing. To lead like Churchill, with courage, faith and integrity, you need to choose a cause that is morally and ethically sound.
BULLOCK, Alan: Hitler A Study in Tyranny
HICKMAN, Tom: Churchill’s Bodyguard
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
Often attributed to Great-Grandpapa, but in-fact, according to Richard Langworth, unattributed; but the sentiment is right, whether Churchill spoke it or not.
The Churchill’s on The Thames (c.1940)
During the 1930s, groans would be heard in the House of Commons when Churchill rose to speak. His warnings that Hitler was a problem we could not afford to underestimate were sadly ignored. But with courage, despite colleagues on both sides of the House jeering at him and shouting for him to sit-down, Great-Grandpapa remained resolute.
Churchill’s goal was clear from the earliest moments in 1933; he intended to ensure that Britain rearmed to avoid a war, the horror of which he feared would be matched, if not outdone, by the War of 1914-1918.
Great-Grandpapa proved his courage was made of metal when he stood and spoke over the unruly House of Commons, however, it was not until he became Prime Minister he proved that, although ‘always ready to learn,’ and not always happy to be taught, he could rise to the occasion, and, as a leader, listen to advice. Shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Great-Grandmama wrote to Churchill, concerned at a complaint she had received on how he was handling the pressures of his office, and the war:
‘I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; & you are not so kind as you used to be,’ Clementine wrote, ‘with this terrific power you must combine urbanity, kindness and if possible Olympic calm…I cannot bear that those who serve the Country & yourself should not love you as well as admire and respect you.’
Great-Grandpapa’s attitude changed overnight. Although still occasionally overbearing, the cruelty disappeared completely, and as a result, colleagues he worked with remembered him fondly and considered him a great hero. I personally feel that his late secretary, Grace Hamblin, summed-up the sentiment best. In a letter penned to Clementine Churchill, following the funeral in London, Grace wrote:
‘I pondered on what had made this dynamic but gentle character so beloved and respected—and such a wonderful person to work for. I think one found first of all that there was courage. He had no fear of anything, moral or physical. There was sincerity, truth and integrity, for he couldn’t knowingly deceive a cabinet minister or a bricklayer or a secretary. There was forgiveness, warmth, affection, loyalty and, perhaps most important of all in the demanding life we all lived, there was humour, which he had in abundance….’
Leading with courage is one of the most important qualities of leadership because, ‘as it has been said…Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because…it is the quality which guarantees all others.’
Note from the author: This blog post represent information based upon Jonathan’s Churchillian leadership course,
LEAD LIKE CHURCHILL: Courage, Faith, Integrity.
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Mrs. Clementine Churchill, right, laughs heartily as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill talks at Chigwell, England, during his election campain, May 27, 1945. (AP Photo)
Thirty-nine years ago, one of the greatest women of the Twentieth Century, Clementine Churchill, passed away and joined her husband, my great-grandfather, Winston. They had been married for over fifty years, and although on occasion tumultuous, theirs was a relationship of overwhelming love, and on Great-Grandmamma’s part, extreme patience. As author Sonia Purnell points out, Great-Grandmamma ‘proved a genius both at patching up the wreckage caused by his [Winston’s] bad decisions, and at offering good advice.’ Purnell maintains, and from my study of Churchill’s life, I agree, Clementine’s role in Great-Grandpapa’s life was so significant that without her, his ‘career would have been a washout.’
How often the vital role of women, or indeed a supportive partner or spouse has been overlooked, or indeed taken for granted. While I am sure that many can claim that they became successful because of their own hard work, few can say they remained successful due to their own merits. Whether you are a successful man, or woman, can you really say that you got there alone? I certainly cannot make such a claim. Without the support of several significant people in my own life, including my mother, my sister, and indeed, my very patient wife, I would never have made it this far in life, let alone written and had published, a book. Great-Grandpapa was unable to lay claim to his success on his own strength. Apart from the credit that he gives God, in his autobiography My Early Life, Churchill’s early career both as an officer in the British Army, and a politician from 1900, would not have been possible without the support and intervention of his American mother, Jennie. His later career success also required finesse, something his personality seriously lacked. However, wisely, Churchill deferred to Clementine, who proved on many occasions that she was very capable of fighting his corner without antagonizing his opposition, or his leaders. Following the Dardanelles disaster, it was my great-grandmother who, according to Sonia Purnell, ‘encouraged him to go to the Front,’ believing it would be good for his image. While Churchill was away serving in France, Clementine was busy ‘running nine enormous workers’ canteens.’ Although not necessarily a calculated political move, it certainly didn’t hurt with improving Churchill’s reputation as people realised that Mrs. Churchill, like her husband, didn’t see herself as high and mighty, but indeed equal to all, and as ready as any to roll her sleeves up, and get dirty for the boys on the Front.
Leadership is not conducted alone, and wise leaders acknowledge and respect those who helped them to the top, and never look down in-pride from above. Great-Grandpapa himself credited Great-Grandmamma with great wisdom, describing her as ‘his “sagacious military pussycat”.’
This is only to give you my fondest love and kisses a hundred times repeated…I have found it quite lonely & will rejoice to see us joined together in gaiety and love.
Yours ever & always,