The willingness to make very difficult and risky decisions, when necessary, is one thing which distinguishes leaders from managers. This willingness became readily apparent in the years preceding World War II and in the “blood, sweat, and tears” shed in Britain during the War years.
Neville Chamberlain served as Britain’s Prime Minister 1937-1940 and was much more of a national manager than he was a national leader. Throughout much of 1938, heated debate swirled around the topic of whether the Sudetenland, a largely German-speaking section of the old Czechoslovakia, should be annexed by the rapidly rising Third Reich i.e. Nazi Germany. Prime Minister Chamberlain thought that war-shattered Germany, after World War I, had been treated very unfairly by the Allied powers which had deeply embittered them as a nation.
To an extent Mr. Chamberlain was correct in his view in that Germany had been very poorly treated in the year subsequent to World War I, most especially in the very high level of reparations payments which the Germans were forced to make. Prime Minister Chamberlain was a very naïve national manager, however, when he believed that annexing the Sudetenland would appease Adolf Hitler’s expansionist plans and would avert a war.
As a member of the British Parliament at the time, however, Winston Churchill was adamantly opposed to Mr. Chamberlain’s plan to appease Hitler by allowing him to take possession of the Sudetenland. Mr. Churchill, as a national leader, very clearly discerned Hitler’s expansionist designs and declared that attempting to appease him would only embolden Hitler’s expansionist plans. He presciently knew that strongly opposing Hitler, even if meant going to war, was the only way to halt him from taking over all of Europe and beyond.
History, of course, proved Mr. Churchill right in that Mr. Chamberlain’s attempt to appease Hitler only emboldened him and served to help propel German army advances into not only Sudetenland but also into Poland, Czechoslovakia, and beyond. Meanwhile, the Battle of Britain raged for period of almost four months in the summer and fall of 1940, with the Royal Air Force (RAF) prevailing over the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) and thereby strongly discouraging Hitler from attempting to wage amphibious landings on British soil.
It was during this critical time of Britain’s history that Winston Churchill became the Prime Ministerial leader and inspired a nation to shed “blood, sweat, and tears” in the combating of evil and of ensuring the survival of their nation as a parliamentary democracy. Great leaders inspire and transform whereas managers administrate and oversee.