‘Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose.’
General Bernard Montgomery
My Great Aunt's temper may have determined the outcome of the Second World War. Edith Irving served as the head nurse with the Free French forces in the only front line field hospital in North Africa. In the spring of 1942, when Winston Churchill flew in to evaluate the situation on the ground, morale was at rock bottom. The German Africa Korps had been sweeping all before them. It seemed only a matter of time before they broke through, captured the oil rich Middle East and brought the war to a close.1 My Great Aunt was sometimes invited to functions with senior officers, and occasionally invited to share her opinion. She had very strong opinions. The problem, she said, was the only leader our troops ever talked about was the German General Rommel. When she angrily blurted out: ‘They need to know who's in charge on our side, and care!’ she later told me it reduced the room to silence. I'm not sure she was invited to any more dinners, but a short time later, Churchill brought in a new commander by the name of General Montgomery, who introduced a very different style of leadership. Maybe, just maybe, this courageous statement of heartfelt belief made a difference.
Unlike the Generals that preceded him, Montgomery understood the need for clear and regular communication. As the Sandhurst guide, Developing Leaders explains: ‘Montgomery ...