Expert Insight: Thinking Outside the Box
By David Schneider
Date: March 10, 2010

Supply Chain Comment: Examples of Exemplary Leadership by Winston Churchill in World War II

Why It Is Important To Understand Churchill's Leadership Skills And Our Modern Supply Chain Today

On May 10, 1940 Winston Churchill accepted a formidable job to accomplish - He took over the leadership position as prime minister of Great Britain.  The future was dim, the horrible rout of the British on the beaches of Dunkirk was just a few weeks away and France was failing to resist the Nazi march. We know now that Churchill picked up the mantle of leadership and turned the British from the edge of defeat, both militarily and socially, and led his country to eventual victory over the oppression of Nazi Germany.

Churchill did not do this alone. As a leader he inspired and directed an incredible effort. Churchill's efforts and his behaviors as an example of war leadership are a rich source of leadership qualities that apply to our roles as managers and leaders. I look at Churchill's behaviors as something beyond war leadership, his key behaviors are applicable to any leadership situation in war or peace.

The Twelve Key Principles Of Churchill's Leadership

Leadership is an activity not a subject. Said another way leadership is a verb not a noun. Leadership is something you do. Look at successful leaders in the supply chain and logistics industries today you will find leaders who embrace all of these key behaviors that Winston Churchill demonstrated in what is clearly one of the most difficult leadership positions that any man has faced.

The 12 key behaviors of Winston Churchill's war leadership between 1940 and 1945 are:

  • Build a Strong Organization of Capable People
  • Depend on a Strong and Loyal Support Staff
  • Maintain a Consistent Routine
  • Keep an Even Disposition
  • There was no Defeat in his Heart
  • Listen and Read from a Constant Feed of Information from All Source Points
  • Centered Belief in Himself and his Abilities
  • He was a National Leader – not a Party Leader
  • Always Spoke with Clarity of Purpose
  • Publicly Visible – took risks to be visible – and Established His Humanity and Humility
  • Active not Passive - Always Took Action – Decisive - Ruthless When Needed
  • He set and maintained high values and standards

Final Thoughts

Why is it important to understand Churchill's leadership skills and our modern supply chain today? Simply put, the 12 key principles of his leadership are scalable and flexible for application to just about any leadership situation. Is it important for a distribution center manager to build out a strong and loyal support staff? How important is it to have an even disposition when you're in a leadership position? How successful our leaders when they speak with clarity of purpose?  The answer to each of these questions is Yes.

Next time, we will look at
the first of the 12 key behaviors of Churchill's leadership, "Build a Strong Organization of Capable People."

Agree or disagree with Schneider's perspective? What would you add? Let us know your thoughts for publication in the SCDigest newsletter Feedback section, and on the website. Upon request, comments will be posted with the respondent's name or company withheld.

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About the Author
David Schneider is founder and president of David K. Schneider & Company, a supply chain and logistics consulting firm. Prior to that, he was Director of Logistics for Pep Boys Auto and a consultant at Keough.

Schneider Says:

The twelve key principles of his leadership are scalable and flexible for application to just about any leadership situation.

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