- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

Leadership, as well as those qualities that make a leader, has become a popular subject in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11. An early book on the subject was “Leadership,” Rudolph Giuliani’s self-glorification of his role as New York mayor in the wake of those attacks. Now comes a smaller book on the same subject, this one extolling and using as examples the leadership qualities exhibited by Winston Churchill during his long and multifaceted career.

“We Shall Not Fail” is coauthored by Churchill’s granddaughter, Celia Sandys, and a California writer, Jonathan Littman. Its jacket tells us that Miss Sandys, who has written two other books on her grandfather, currently “is establishing the Churchill Leadership Program for all who aspire to lead.” This book clearly was written as an adjunct to that program. Basically, though it discusses and gives examples of Churchill’s many leadership qualities, it is little more than a primer on leadership, presumably aimed at college students and ambitious, young business executives.

In a way, this is too bad. The authors have much to say about Churchill’s leadership qualities and when, where and how he exercised them, not only in politics and government, but also in battle. But they frequently interrupt and disrupt the narrative to urge the reader who wants to be a leader to adopt and adhere to whatever quality is being discussed at the time.

In order to leave no doubt that the book was written more to explain how to seize and enhance leadership roles than it was merely to join the ranks of those who laud Churchill as one of history’s finest leaders, each chapter ends with a list of those “Churchillian Principles” that have been examined in the chapter.



In the last chapter, “How to Win a War,” there are nine such principles including: “Be loyal to your subordinates”; “Lead from the front, physically and intellectually”; and “Remember that optimism and strength of character are contagious.”

In fairness, there are many more, some, perhaps, of more value and others not as trite. I suspect that the authors have dug these principles out by themselves, that Churchill was much too busy doing what ever it is great men do to find time to develop and leave behind such a list.

Along with the principles, little leadership truisms are sprinkled throughout each chapter. In Chapter One, we learn that “Leadership waits for no one.” And later on that “Future leaders do not depend on others for their education.” Finally, we are informed that, “It is lonely at the top.”

Despite its flaws, which can partly be blamed on the authors’ efforts to combine a book about Churchill with a text on leadership, Miss Sandys and Mr. Littman provide a number of insights into what made Churchill the greatest leader and statesman of the 20th century. There is nothing new in it, but much will be new to postwar generations who know him largely by hearsay and then primarily as a wartime leader.

There are bits and fragments about Churchill the bored student, the foreign correspondent, the daring soldier, the prolific author, his years in and out of power and finally much on his years as Britain’s wartime prime minister. We are told of his brilliance, his courage, his ability to work long hours, of the way he dealt with men and handled situations. We are told a little-known fact: Churchill is the father of the modern day tank, which he referred to as “land battleships.”

No book on Churchill, even one as flimsy as this, would be complete without some of his most famous quotes. Thus, we get his tribute to the Royal Air Force: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” And also his great rallying cry during the war’s darkest days that gave new heart to the British and warned the Nazis: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Miss Sandys leaves no doubt that she worships her grandfather. While finding it necessary to mention on occasion that he is less than perfect, at the end, in talking about World War II, she asks rhetorically: “[W]ho else would have even stayed the course, let alone won, when faced with such a trial?” Who, indeed?

Lyn Nofziger, a Washington writer, was a political adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

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