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Ten ways for church leaders to lead like Winston Churchill

September 21, 2013

Are you facing some difficulties at church lately? Whether your challenges are internal or external, you can learn something from Winston Churchill. He was Prime Minister of Britain through World War II, and led his country through terrifying bombing and the threat of invasion. Here are ten ways that I think church leaders can learn from Winston Churchill for their own leadership.

1. He had a difficult family history. His father died early of venereal disease, and his mother was an American socialite who got involved with progressively younger men and spent money like it was going out of style. Churchill, like many male clergy, was an oldest son with a powerful drive to make a contribution.
2. He had a social conscience. In spite of his aristocratic upbringing and his primary affiliation with the Tories, the conservative party in England, he was committed to making life better for ordinary working citizens.
3. He communicated well, on paper and verbally. Churchill was a master of the English language. He knew the importance of inspiring people in difficult times, but he didn't do it by pandering. You can listen to a number of his speeches here.
4. He came back from setbacks. He was on the sidelines in the 30s and again after World War II when his party was defeated. Yet he came back to lead as Prime Minister on two occasions.
5. He didn't let his own emotional challenges keep him back. He struggled throughout his life with what he called the "black dog" of depression. Even with this struggle, he was a national leader and wrote countless books and articles.
6. He wasn't afraid to take a stand. This was his main criticism of the British leaders through the 30s, that they were too accommodating toward Hitler.
7. He was confident. Despite his emotional ups and downs, he knew in his heart of hearts he had a contribution to make.
8. He got the help he needed. His social context helped him - as an aristocrat he had a wife who catered to his every need, servants, and secretaries who took dictation all hours of the day or night. Even today, more help is available than clergy might think.
9. He didn't let age stop him. Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940 at the age of 65. His second round as Prime Minister ended when he was 80.
10. He was himself -- eccentric, brilliant and sometimes annoying to family, employees and colleagues. But who he was made it possible for him to be the leader he was, at a time Britain needed leadership desperately.

Life in ministry may not be as dramatic or terrifying as leading in wartime. You may not have as much power as the leader of a nation. Even so, we can learn from Churchill.

What is one aspect of Churchill's leadership you might try out in your ministry?


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