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11/29/13 at 09:51 AM 0 Comments

Study Great Leaders

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Winston Churchill signals victory.

Leaders study other leaders.

One of the most efficient ways to study other leaders is to read biography. I try to read several biographies a year of leaders I admire. During vacation this summer I studied Winston Churchill, focusing most of my study on what I think is the most concentrated and engaging of the many Churchill biographies: Paul Johnson’s, Churchill.

Below are a handful of quotes from this biography summarizing attributes that made Churchill such an effective leader. These quotes are in no particular order and I don’t supply the context, but you’re smart enough to figure out how your own leadership can benefit from what I’ve posted here.

Churchill had an uncanny gift for getting priorities right.

Churchill’s greatest intellectual gift was for picking on essentials and concentrating on them.

“He [Churchill] is not a gamble but never shrinks form taking a calculated risk if the situation so demands. His whole heart and soul are in the battle, and he is an apostle of the offensive.” -General Ismay

[Churchill] encouraged the spirit of adventure.

Jokes were never far away when Churchill spoke, even in the gloomiest times.

[Churchill] set a personal example of furious and productive activity…He was sixty-five but he looked, seemed,–was, indeed–the embodiment of energy. He worked a sixteen-hour day…Churchill’s sheer energy and, not least, his ability to switch it off abruptly when no needed were central keys to his life, and especially his wartime leadership.

Churchill’s great strength was his power of relaxation.

The balance he maintained between flat-out work and creative and restorative leisure is worth study by anyone holding a top position.

…by aiming high he always achieved something worthwhile.

Churchill was always on the lookout for allies, large or small.

Churchill never allowed mistakes, disaster–personal or national–accidents, illnesses, unpopularity, and criticism to get him down.

“He [Churchill] enjoyed himself thoroughly and was one of those rare leaders who relished small talk as much as world-shaking issues.” -Richard Nixon

“I dread capture more than death, and I will go down fighting.” -Churchill

Churchill loved to forgive and make up.

It was, rather, from his mother that Winston derived his salient characteristics: energy, a love of adventure, ambition, a sinuous intellect, warm feelings, courage and resilience, and a huge passion for life in all its aspects.

Nothing daunted Churchill.

…Churchill made it simple, logical, and efficient.

…politics never occupied his whole attention and energies. He had an astonishing range of activities to provide him with relief, exercise, thrills, fun, and not least, money.

“Mr. Churchill, sir, to what do you attribute your success in life? Without pause or hesitation he replied: “Conservation of energy.”

His ideas, when they prospered, sometimes had a huge effect on the future.

Painting, after politics and the family, became his chief passion, and he painted for the rest of his life, as the perfect relaxation from his tremendous cares.

He courted danger, given the chance.

Churchill…was never content to be silent or inactive when the opportunity to say or do something interesting presented itself…

He read everything of value he could get his hands on, and forgot nothing he read.

Churchill delighted in his marriage. He was a happy man.

…it is not easy to classify Churchill

Churchill had done it by his personal leadership, courage, resolution, ingenuity, and grasp, and by his huge and infectious confidence.


Justin Buzzard is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church, a church plant in Silicon Valley, and author of the books The Big Story: How The Bible Makes Sense Out of Life and Date Your Wife.

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