Leadership according to Winston Churchill

Directed by Joe Wright - 2017 - UK - 114 min

Darkest Hour

2021 August 03 | by Arduino Mancini Conflict - Critical thinking - Leadership - Resilience - War


How does a person feel when he or she is responsible for the future of many people and is alone in facing a desperate situation?

How can the same person maintain a clear view of the facts when everyone around him or her seems to have lost their mind?

The film I’m presenting will help us to answer these questions.

The title is Darkest Hour and is based on the screenplay by Anthony McCarten about Winston Churchill’s rise to the office of British Prime Minister in 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War.

Europe is facing probably the most difficult season in its history. After the invasion of Norway and the surrender of Belgium, even France is about to fall to the Nazis; and the entire British army (over 300,000 men) is trapped by German tanks on the beach at Dunkirk, pounded by the enemy air force: and with the desperate fear of not returning home.

In Great Britain, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was in the eye of the storm, accused of having underestimated the danger of Nazi Germany and of being too accommodating to Hitler; the Labour Party in the House of Lords demanded his resignation and the Conservative Party was forced to accept it, as the moment called for a government that needed the support of the opposition as well: an opposition that identified Winston Churchill as the only person capable of dealing with the situation and preventing the invasion of the island.

Yes, because the word “victory” seems unrealistic even to the most optimistic of British citizens.

The scenario in which Winston Churchill takes power, at the age of 66, is desolate: Europe is at the mercy of Nazi Germany, the Conservative Party tolerates him more than backing him, the King does not like his edgy character, the Army is about to be destroyed at Dunkirk, the invasion seems to be imminent, a large part of the conservative party is ready to negotiate peace with Hitler.

Enough of the plot, which is already written in books: here is the trailer of the film, then some points to which I suggest you pay attention.

What you can learn from this film

It is difficult to comment without saying that Winston Churchill was born into a wealthy family (his mother was the daughter of the editor of the New York Times) with noble roots. From childhood, he was brought up in politics (his father had been a leading member of the Conservative Party) and was always preparing to hold the office of Prime Minister, which was only offered to him when he was no longer a young man.

The remarkable aspects of the film are the following:

  • The solitude that leaders face when the chances of success are really slim. Facing a desperate situation without the support of his own party (which comes to blackmail him into following a thus far losing peace strategy) as Churchill did requires a backbone of exceptional strength;
  • The ability to listen to people and understand their needs without any mediation;
  • The hostility of the members of the Party towards the leader, hostility generated by the opposition’s support;
  • Churchill’s ability to maintain clear thinking when terror clouds the minds of others around him, a lucidity that allows him to spot the solution that will take over 300,000 soldiers out of Dunkirk alive;
  • The resistance to fear, with the awareness that “you can’t reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth“;
  • The difficulties a person may face in achieving his or her goals when he or she does not intend to change a communication style that is not oriented to please;
  • Communication presented as a key factor in keeping up the morale of the soldiers and the nation as a whole, leveraging the values upon which the entire nation had been built.

A film that every person interested in critical thinking and leadership development should see.


Gary Oldman (Oscar 2018), Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Ronald Pickup.

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