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On June 18,1940, Winston Churchill, the newly elected British Prime minister, addressed the House of Commons regarding the Battle of France and the impending Battle of Britain. The United States would not enter into the war for another six months, leaving Britain to stand alone against the Nazi war machine. Churchill’s speech was not only intended to address the House, but was also broadcast on the BBC to the British public. Many have considered this to be one of the greatest speeches ever given in the English language. What is it about this speech that makes it so powerful?
The Great Visionary
In order to study the importance of this speech, we must study the events which had occurred leading up to it. Only two weeks prior to Churchill’s speech, the British navy, along with a fleet of private fishing boats, completed the evacuation of British, French and Commonwealth troops from Dunkirk before they were utterly crushed by the advancing Nazi forces. Only having held the office of Prime Minister for six weeks, Churchill needed to calm, inspire and motivate not only the British military, but the people as well. So as we look at the speech, I will attempt to break down the speech into some key elements he used to achieve his goal.
Throughout most of the 36 minute speech, Churchill spoke very directly and very logically about the events in France. He opens the speech by placing blame for the “colossal military disaster” (Churchill, 1940) squarely on the French High Command, but holds in a more subtle way, the House of Commons and the Parliament at fault as well. At the same time, he tells the British people that he does not want to dwell on this, but must look to the future. In fact he speaks of the future several times during the course of the speech. “Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future” (Churchill, 1940). To this he immediately follows up with facts and figures regarding the number of troops rescued from the shores of Dunkirk, including British, Canadian and French troops. In fact, during most of the speech he refers to facts and figures regarding their ability to defend the Island from any possibility of invasion. During the entire speech, Churchill always spoke in truthful yet positive terms, then telling the British people that it is business as usual, “Those who are not called up, or else are employed during the vast business of munitions production in all its branches-and their ramifications are innumerable-will serve their country best by remaining at their ordinary work until they receive their summons.” (Churchill, 1940). At its heart, one can see the British wartime slogan “Keep Calm and Chive On”. During his address, Churchill never tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the British people by diminishing the strength of the German military forces, but also insisting that Britain will prevail. When placing Churchill into the role of a modern business leader, Caroline Longstaffe writes “Churchill’s approach would be firstly to explain the current realities, then inspire the team by offering them a vision for how things could be, then tell them how to achieve this and finally mobilize them into action” (Longstaffe, 2005).
The Great Orator
Winston Churchill was a visionary leader, of that there is no doubt. To be a great leader, he also had to be a great communicator. He had not only a keen grasp of the English language, but understood how to deliver his message. If one looks at the final typed transcript of the speech and how it is setup, it is written in a blank verse format, with five-line paragraphs of indented type, “a form the Churchill Archives Center's director, Allen Packwood, compared to the Old Testament Book of Psalms, regarded by many literary scholars as one of the seminal influences, with Shakespeare, on Churchill's literary and rhetorical style” (Burns, 2010). One can read the words, but this does not compare to listening to Churchill himself give the speech. To listen to the tempo and rhythm he uses, perhaps calculated to calm the people. Even though this is dire news, it is given so as to not incite panic in the British people. One important thing to note as it pertains to leadership communication is that, like all of his speeches, he wrote this speech. Unlike modern politicians, there were no speech writers during this period. The words are his, and because of this, he believes his words and is sincere in his message. In order to convey a positive ethos, a leader must be sincere, using their own words, style and tone to convey their message, even if that message is not necessarily a good one.
A Man of Purpose
Sir Winston Churchill’s Finest Hour speech had vision, which he conveys to the House of Commons and the British people with a sincerity that all leaders should strive for. Along with those qualities, his speech also had purpose. In the final four sentences, Churchill states, “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour” (Churchill, 1940). He makes no bones about what failure means, but that if everyone does their part, the Empire will endure. Those future historians will look back and say that despite overwhelming odds, Britain prevailed. She prevailed because her people never lost hope, kept calm and chived on. All leaders, whether in the corporate world or the political arena, should aspire to this kind of honesty and sincerity.
Burns, John F. (2010, June 18) Seventy Years Later, Churchill's 'Finest Hour' Yields Insights. The New York Times, p A8(L).
Churchill, Winson (1940, June 18), Finest Hour Speech, Address to the House of Commons, London England
Longstaffe, Caroline (2005) Winston Churchill, a leader from history or an inspiration for the future? Industrial and Commercial Training 37(2/3), 80-83
Many managers believe that it is enough to show up and be seen, but then this is why I refer to them as managers and not leaders. Leadership require more than just showing up, it requires engagement; but if a manager doesn’t know what engagement looks like chances are they are missing opportunities to move from manager to leader.
In a recent GALLUP article by Randall Beck and Jim Harter, they state that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged and cite managers for being the primary cause. While every manager may not be a great leader it would be remiss to assume they don’t want to be and it is more likely that they don’t know how to be a great leader.
So what is a manager to do? Here are 5 simple things they can start doing right away to be more engaged.
1. Say good morning. When is the last time you walked around and said good morning to all of your employees? It seems simple, and it is, yet many leaders come in and head straight for their office. If you can do it every day great, if not, try for once a week. If you say “Good morning, have a great day.” It will have an amazing effect on your employees.
2. Recognize and Compliment. Don’t assume your employees know they are doing a good job; tell them! Look for opportunities to recognize the contributions your employees make to the organization and not just the big ones, the small ones count too. Remember, no news is not always good news.
3. Meet one on one. If there is one thing you need to start doing if you’re not already is to meet with your employee’s one on one. Have them schedule 15-30 minutes with you weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Make the time about them, not you by always asking questions like: What are you working on; what are your roadblocks, what can I do for you; what should I stop doing.
4. Walk around and ask questions. I don’t mean “what are you working on” or “what the status of X project is”, ask questions to make a personal connection. “How was your weekend ”,“How are your kids/spouse/significant other”. Leaders need to be seen and that lends itself to making personal connections with your employees. As with number one, you may not be able to do it every day but you should do it at least once a week. Put it on your calendar.
5. Listen more, talk less. You cannot speak and listen at the same time, listening takes effort and focus. Apply this to 1-4 and you will be well on your way to better engagement with your employees.
Remember that if you want to have engaged employees you have to be an engaged leader. The more engaged you are with them, the more engaged they will be and the less likely they are to leave you and the organization.
*Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Organizations around the world have experienced far-reaching and powerful transformation in the last decade, including ups and downs that present challenges for the modern leader. These include the constant change in information technology, global competition, and the demand for flexibility and speed at the point of need for a sustainable advantage. Regardless of the degree of change that an organization must react to, the ability to think successfully in the future tense requires a common framework within the organization. What does this mean to organizations in the future? It means that the successful 21st century organization must be designed for success at all levels: individual, group, and organization. This article will examine how the components of individual, group, and organization can empower organizations to successfully configure structures, processes, reward systems, and people practices and policies.
It has been estimated that 80% of the jobs available in the USA within 20 years will be based on one’s intellectual capabilities. Therefore, the days of societies turning primarily to CEOs, generals, bishops, and other senior leaders for knowledge will shift across the entire organizational structure. James identifies a number of intellectual competences, certain skills that everyone must have, to know what the future will look like. Not in any specific order, these are the skills you will need: new lens view, strategic foresight, harnessing the power of myths, speed, knowledge of the past to predict the future, and doing more with less
An example of the nature of intelligence in relation to certain skills required in 21st century organizations is seen in the organizational design of Hewlett Packard in France and IBM in London. Both organizations created clubs that compensate you to join, but to maintain your membership you have to keep your skills current and continue producing revenue.
Higher education is a critical indicator of one’s intellectual capabilities. In fact, never before has the role of organizational design depended so profoundly on the acquisition of higher education. From a global viewpoint, in China and Japan over half the undergraduates receive their degrees in engineering and science. That compares to 32% in America. A weak education system equates to weak innovations, solutions, and intellectual capabilities required to create an effective organization capable of achieving the business strategy. In view of the global importance of higher education to organizational design, this educational imbalance stands as a clear message to 21st century American organizations: the ability to obtain and employ intelligence will be the new source of wealth.
Currently, there is a great interest in the study of organizational teams. This attention is in response to the competitive challenges and organizational needs of a flexible and adaptable organizational design for today, tomorrow, and the future. Groups, not individuals, are the ideal building blocks around which 21st century organizations should strategize. According to Jenewein and Morhart, there are three principles for properly shaping organizational design around groups: (1) personnel management: finding the right team members (2) leadership: putting the team first (3) team culture: courage to do the unconventional.
American society was built on the value of individual achievement. Today, for example, we have generation X that has been raised in an environment of individual achievement with such things as most valuable player in sports, competitive video gaming, television game show winners, and other ways of recognizing individual achievement. People do not relish channeling their individual identity to that of the group.
However, in the context of 21st century organizations’ desire for a team-oriented organizational design, collaboration is valued over competition. Organizations welcome a smooth process in a team setting. For example, when Boeing’s organizational design was at a crossroads, management decided that they would focus on transforming to a team-based organization. These changes included the creation of self-managing work teams based on their function and not their individual titles. As a result, the Boeing 717 project was a major success, and a new team-based culture was established.
The ability of an organization to see the entire landscape for a strategic advantage is the principle of a good organizational design. From this strategic viewpoint, the organization recognizes important patterns in its design for success. The span of organizational design has evolved, but no other design activity is more important to 21st century organizations than the element of continuous flexibility.
Flexibility is the organization’s ability to react to the constantly changing business world. One approach that Snull used to explain the art and science of applying flexibility in a constantly changing business world emerged directly out of the context of structure. He suggests that as organizations achieve success, their winning structure becomes embedded into the process, and the only way to stay clear of ad hoc changes is a flexible design. This is achieved by being leaner, closer to the action, staying focused, allowing equality of power, and holding a portfolio of options for an uncertain future. For instance, when Chevron issued a “best practices resource map” to their employees detailing innovations and contact information for the responsible people, new groups developed sparking learning, innovation, and flexibility. The key to a sustainable advantage in 21st century organizations is to include flexibility, but not to the extent that the design is not stable.
Certainly there are differences among individuals, groups, and organizations. Placed in similar situations, each will act differently. However, there are certain fundamental consistencies that are applicable to 21st century organizations. These fundamental consistencies (individuals, groups, and organizations) are extremely important to the organizational design because they generate predictability. The ideal situation is a balanced methodology between individuals, groups, and organizations within the organizational design. Organizations that do not continually develop their skills with flexibility will be threatened by agile competition willing to do so with no hesitation. The role of organizational design in the 21st century is being transformed, and everyone must be prepared to support it.
Englehardt, Charles, and Peter Simmons. “Organizational Flexibility for a Changing World.” Leadership & Organization Development Journal 23, no. 3 (2002): 113-21.
Galbraith, Jay, Diane Downey, and Amy Kates. Designing Dynamic Organizations. New York, NY: American Management Association, 2002.
Handy, Charles. The Age of Paradox. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1995.
James, Jennifer. “Thinking in the Future Tense.” Industrial and Commercial Training 30, no. 7 (1996): 28-32.
Jenewein, Wolfgang, and Felicitas Morhart. “Navigating Toward Team Success.” Team Performance Management 14, no. 1/2 (2008): 102-8.
Lewis, Pamela, Stephen Goodman, and Patricia Fandt. Management: Challenges for Tomorrow's Leaders. 4th ed. Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western, 2004.
Pina, Mary, Ana Martinez, and Luis Martinez. “Teams in Organizations: A Review on Team Effectiveness.” Team Performance Management 14, no. 1/2 (2008): 7-21.
Robbins, Stephen. Organizational Behavior. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.
Sirias, Danilo, H.B. Karp, and Timothy Brotherton. “Comparing the Levels of Individualism/Collectivism between Baby Boomers and Generation X: Implications for Teamwork.” Management Research News 30, no. 10 (2007): 749-61.
Yankelovich, Daniel. “Ferment and Change: Higher Education in 2015.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 52, no. 14 (2005).
 Pamela Lewis, Stephen Goodman, and Patricia Fandt, Management: Challenges for Tomorrow's Leaders, 4th ed. (Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western, 2004), 3.
 Jay Galbraith, Diane Downey, and Amy Kates, Designing Dynamic Organizations (New York, NY: American Management Association, 2002), 2.
 Jennifer James, “Thinking in the Future Tense,” Industrial and Commercial Training 28, no. 7 (1996): 29.
 Ibid., 30.
 Charles Handy, The Age of Paradox (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1995), 219.
 Daniel Yankelovich, “Ferment and Change: Higher Education in 2015,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 52, no. 14 (2005).
 Handy, The Age of Paradox, 18-19.
 Mary Pina, Ana Martinez, and Luis Martinez, “Teams in Organizations: A Review on Team Effectiveness,” Team Performance Management 14, no. 1/2 (2008): 7.
 Wolfgang Jenewein and Felicitas Morhart, “Navigating Toward Team Success,” Team Performance Management 14, no. 1/2 (2008): 103.
 Danilo Sirias, H.B. Karp, and Timothy Brotherton, “Comparing the Levels of Individualism/Collectivism between Baby Boomers and Generation X: Implications for Teamwork,” Management Research News 30, no. 10 (2007): 750.
 Ibid., 753.
 Stephen Robbins, Organizational Behavior, 10th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003), 261.
 Galbraith, Downey, and Kates, Designing Dynamic Organizations, 2.
 Charles Englehardt and Peter Simmons, “Organizational Flexibility for a Changing World,” Leadership & Organization Development Journal 23, no. 3 (2002): 115.
 Ibid., 119.
*Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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