When Leader's Get Discouraged


Leaders get discouraged.

The blues might play out in a moment of melancholy, or they could lengthen into a day of the doldrums, a week of woe, or an entire season of sadness. This is understandable. Not every initiative succeeds, not every review is positve, not every follower is happy. What's a leader to do?

In 1948, World War II was over; so was Winston Churchill's service as Prime Minister. The leader was a tired man with sagging spirits. He was 73, his brother had died the year before, he feared a growing wave of socialism in Great Britain, he was frustrated by the government's "incurable impotence in exercising [power]," and he was battling ill health.[1]

Churchill took time to recuperate in Morocco. There he painted and worked on his war memoirs. Edits arrived from Edward Marsh, a man of encyclopedic learning, from the Oxford philosopher Isaiah Berlin, and from writer and publisher Emery Reves.

Martin Gilbert, Churchill's biographer writes,

"Not all criticism was equally well received. When Emery Reves wrote that, in his considered opinion, there were too many documents quoted in full in the narrative, and that considerable rewriting was needed to weave them into the text. Churchill was cast down."[2]
Reves criticism appears to be the proverbial straw that broke -- for a moment -- the indomitable spirit of this amazing leader. Interestingly, it was his daughter Sarah "who sought to set his mind at rest." 
You are the best historian -- the best journalist -- the best poet. Shut yourself up and only listen to a very few, and even then, write this book from the heart of yourself, from the knowledge you have, and let it stand & fall by that. It will stand -- everyone will listen to your story. I hate to see you pale & longer happily preoccupied.[3]

Sarah's gift to her father was her encouraging words. They were simple, powerful, and a strong gust of wind to his sagging sails.

Even the strongest among us need an occasional lift. God tells us that our words provide that boost.

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25 ESV

Leaders need encouragement like everyone else. So I leave you with two simple questions:

  1. Who is your "Sarah"? Who is the person whom God uses to encourage you in your leadership? Stay close to that individual and make sure you says, "Thanks."
  2. To whom can you be "Sarah" today? There are others around you whose anxiety is weighing them down. Your words can cheer them up.


[1] Martin Gilbert. Churchill: A Biography. New York: Henry Holt and Company. Page 878. 

[2] Gilbert: Churchill, page 878.

[3] Gilbert: Churchill, page 879.