A few years ago, I visited the Churchill War Rooms in Central London. In 2002 I had a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship and since then I guess I have had an added interest in his life and times. The Trust is a great organisation and has provided thousands of travel fellowships to all parts of the globe.
Churchill of course was an unusual character. Had it not been for his leadership in World War Two his life would probably have been known more for his failures, bad decisions and eccentricities. Of course, the war changed all that. Instead he was seen as one of the greatest leaders in the history of the United Kingdom.
The recent film ‘Darkest Hour’ is a gripping tale of the war years and Gary Oldman’s portrayal was award winning.
In the film there are scenes from the War Room in central London and the tensions that filled the room, day after day. The war dragged on for years and there were indeed many ‘dark hours’ which took its toll on those who laboured there during that time. Visiting them evokes the real bunker sense of what it must have been like. Well worth a visit – when the time for tourism returns.
Our Covid-19 crisis has been likened to the second world war and I have heard many references to ‘war rooms’, whether these have been in government, health or business settings. And it is a good analogy because it shows great care is being taken in responding to the crisis and planning how to move forward.
The scale of the current crisis is indeed like a world war and over half of the world’s GDP is currently in lockdown.
But ‘Darkest Hour’ captures the tensions that are there, and for those leaders in ‘war rooms’ across the globe today the pressure will be unrelenting. And many people will also be having to have ‘mini war rooms’ for their own homes and families, trying to care for them and do what is best. And the same leaders with business and domestic responsibilities will also have roles in community leadership be that on boards or in other voluntary capacity. Not for them the ‘furlough’ option, catching up on DIY or reading or TV watching.
These are hard times and these leaders need to take time for themselves too. Eric McNulty is the associate director of Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. More than most he knows the toll such times take on people. His advice? Put people first, including yourself. And use your colleagues.
This is going to be a long slog, a marathon not a sprint. Pace yourself.
“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”
Stay Safe, Lead Well