Holidays always provide a fantastic opportunity to catch-up on some of those books you’ve been meaning to read for a while, or perhaps re-visiting, and on some occasions coincide with the release of a new and interesting title. All three of these applied to me as we set sail from Southampton for The Canary Islands on 17th December.
Of the five titles I read, although all very good indeed, the pick of the bunch for me was London Mayor Boris Johnson’s reappraisal of the life and work of Winston Churchill which has only recently been published.
Boris has a real concern that perhaps the greatest Briton of all time is slowly fading from people’s memories, with the insurance dog sadly being the first thing that many people associate with when the name Churchill is mentioned nowadays. There is also a strong sense that in the 50 years since Winston Churchill’s passing, his reputation has been unfairly attacked and diminished by critics living in a different time, and perhaps of a differing political hue.
Boris doesn’t shrink from this, and tackles all of the situations cited as Churchill’s errors of judgement and re-evaluates them in a balanced and fair way. In several of these, he brings forward the reasons why they are not in fact the failures that Churchill’s detractors like to suggest, and in some instances were ideas and actions based in very sound logic. Throughout the book we also get a smattering of many of the retorts that Winston was so famous for, which is almost worth the admission price alone!
Although the book covers Churchill’s entire life (although not chronologically), it cleverly pivots around May 1940 when he finally became Prime Minister at Britain’s hour of need, along with the vital fact that, but for this one man and his steadfast resolve, Britain would more than likely have undertaken a deal with Nazi Germany. Great Britain today (indeed Europe in its entirety) would be a very different place indeed to the democracy and freedom that we enjoy if that had happened (Hitler clearly never stuck to any previous agreements so why did the rest of the coalition cabinet think it would be any different next time?). Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Frustratingly, despite his substantial military experience (and valour) and his influential political savvy, he was often thrown out of office, denounced by colleagues and had his words of warning dismissed by others who thought they knew better when history shows that they clearly didn’t.
In a remarkable political career that spanned over 50 years, Winston Churchill was a driving force for victory in both world wars (the tank was his idea and its introduction was decisive in breaking the stalemate of the trench warfare). He had been fired at on four continents, was an early British enthusiast for aviation (taking to the air many times in those pioneering early days) and was crucial to the beginning of the welfare state in the early 1900s; he gave British workers the job centre, unemployment insurance and tea breaks. Furthermore, he was instrumental in the foundation of Israel and the campaign for a united Europe. Remarkably, he had more words published in his books than Shakespeare and Dickens combined.
Boris has written this book with passion, new research, re-evaluation and great reverence to a remarkable man whom we all owe a great debt to. I highly recommend this book and congratulate the Mayor of London for a job well done.
One book that I re-visited over the holidays was ‘Coaching for Performance’ by Sir John Whitmore. I first read this book over a decade ago as a precursor to the Executive Coaching course I undertook with John Webster’s CEOs Office (and am still on the National Coaching Register to this day). In fact one of the sessions on the CEO’s Office course was actually taught to us by Sir John Whitmore himself and it was absolutely amazing and inspiring. The book, as the title suggests, is about the principles and practice of coaching and leadership; growing human potential and purpose via the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward). This remains a great and inspirational read.
I followed this up with a Richard Bandler NLP book (he was a co-creator of neuro-linguistic programming), Fiona Campbell’s ‘Business Coaching the NLP Way’, ‘The Naked Leader Experience’ by David Taylor and Sir Terry Leahy’s ‘Management In Ten Words’ (very interesting considering Tesco’s current woes). Unfortunately, by the time I had got stuck in to the latest Jim Collins book, ‘Great by Choice’, we were already sailing back in to Southampton – but it does assure me of some great reading with which to start the New Year.
And with that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy, successful and prosperous 2015.