Finding Hope in Troubled Times (HBR)

I’ve heard executives say that they have never seen things as bad as they are now. Even as the economy shows signs of recovery, it is by no means certain that recovery will be a linear process.

In these troubled times, it is useful to recall examples of leaders who have survived adversity. One of my favorites, and one whom I have written about extensively, is Winston Churchill. For our times the Churchill most apt is not the Prime Minister of 1940 who rallied Britain as the sole force against the Nazis. Rather it is the Churchill of 1915, tossed from the cabinet after the debacle of Dardanelles, an ill-fated plan to knock Turkey out of the Great War.

As we learn in Paul Johnson’s splendid new biography, Churchill at age 40 found himself very much alone and reviled. So what did he do? He “brooded” for a bit; his wife Clementine said “I thought he would die of grief.” But then to his great delight, Churchill found a new hobby — painting. And through his art, for which he exhibited great talent, he reconnected himself. Rejuvenated, he enlisted in the Army and served on the Front in France for six months of 1915-16. Later Churchill re-entered politics, and from there continued his public life.

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First posted on 21/03/2009