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leaderThe most successful leader of the 20th century was Winston Churchill. But for twelve years, from 1928 until Dunkirk in 1940, he was totally on the sidelines, almost discredited—because there was no need for a Churchill. Things were routine or, at any rate, looked routine. When the catastrophe came, thank goodness, he was available. Fortunately or unfortunately, the one predictable thing in any organization is the crisis. That always comes. That’s when you do depend on the leader.

The most important task of an organization’s leader is to anticipate crisis. Perhaps not to avert it, but to anticipate it. To wait until the crisis hits is already abdication. One has to make the organization capable of anticipating the storm, weathering it, and in fact, being ahead of it. That is called innovation, constant renewal. You cannot prevent a major catastrophe, but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, that has high morale, and also has been through a crisis, knows how to behave, trusts itself, and where people trust one another. In military training, the first rule is to instill soldiers with trust in their officers, because without trust they won’t fight.

Drucker, Peter F. (2010-09-07). Managing the Non-Profit Organization: Principles and Practices (Kindle Locations 278-283). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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4 replies to this post
  1. I like that – it’s often, on a smaller scale, the way a person can prepare one’s self in the face of sin. Not that perfection is possible, but prevention. An excellent analysis and quote!

  2. Wartime leader? Western leader? Perhaps, maybe certainly. But Mr Drucker may be molding Churchill to his own needs and wishes as a management consultant. Churchill’s attitudes toward Indians and Indian independence, to take only one example, were backward even at the time of his birth. Most Asians (all that I’ve met) think Singapore’s Mr Lee Kuan Yew is the 20th C’s best leader and I’d be hard-pressed to fault them.

  3. Regarding the number of challenges and the way those challenges were met, far superior to Winston Churchill was Martin Luther King Jr. Churchill’s leadership was certainly admirable and during a tremendous time of crisis in history. But Churchill’s effectiveness was limited to that leading his country through war. We should also note Churchill’s attitude towards Gandhi.

    In contrast, Martin Luther King Jr not only met war effectively, he gave us a new way to handle conflict and his way is not just more humane, it gives us the best chance at surviving a world where the proliferation of WMDs is inevitable. King’s leadership not only accepts Gandhi but teaches us how to interact with people who are less virtuous than Gandhi.

  4. ??? “Successful”? By some standards a strong case could be made for Josef Stalin. From poor cobbler’s son to failed seminary student to bank robber to master of the only other superpower.

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