Learning from Historical Leaders

Winston Churchill’s role in opposing appeasement during the 1930s is a powerful example of the importance of learning from history and the need for leaders to be bold and confident, even when facing opposition.

Appeasement was a policy adopted by many Western leaders, particularly in Britain and France, in the 1930s in response to the rising aggression of Nazi Germany. The idea was to make concessions to Hitler in the hope of avoiding another devastating war like World War I. Winston Churchill strongly opposed appeasement from the beginning. He argued that giving in to Hitler’s demands would only embolden the Nazi regime. Churchill was confident in his analysis and fearless in his convictions. He believed that the lessons of history, particularly the disastrous consequences of the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, should inform present-day decisions.

Despite facing significant opposition and even ridicule from some of his contemporaries, Churchill refused to back down. He consistently called for rearmament and a tougher stance against Nazi Germany. As history would later prove, Churchill’s warnings were prescient. World War II did break out, and the appeasement policy ultimately failed. Churchill’s determination, leadership, and willingness to act boldly in the face of adversity played a crucial role in the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany.

The lesson from Churchill’s experience is that leaders should not be swayed by popular opinion or short-term political considerations when making crucial decisions. Is this something we need to see adopted more within the industry today? Do we need to be innovative and ground-breaking to succeed in an undoubtedly tumultuous period? Leaders should have the courage to stand firm in their convictions when they believe that history’s lessons demand it. In times of crisis, it is imperative to learn from the past and have the confidence to pursue a course of action that may not be popular or widely supported but is in the best long-term interest of the nation or, in this case, business.

Churchill’s legacy serves as a reminder that bold and confident leadership, rooted in a deep understanding of history, can make a profound difference in shaping the course of events. It is natural to want the support of those around you, but as the famous quote said by Dan Brown: “life is filled with difficult decisions, and winners are those who make them”. This part of history underscores the importance of leaders who are willing to act in the face of adversity and who draw lessons from history to guide their decision-making, ultimately benefitting society and the world at large. In the post-pandemic business world, it is often argued that we expect more from leaders than we have before. Leaders are the anchors of business that can enable us to feel steadier and calmer when faced with challenges, but it can be pondered whether they are left to stand alone when things don’t go to plan. Should leaders be supported in times of success as well as times of adversity? After all, the essence of ‘team’ and supporting through the successes and failures is not only important for employees, but also vital for leaders.

Written by Izzy McHattie, EP Business in Hospitality