Your Darkest Hour?

By Ashley Callaghan, Director, ACT Ltd

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

With the release of The Darkest Hour and Gary Oldman’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Winston Churchill comes a renewed look at what Churchill was required to do in order to push through his world-history defining decisions. And with that comes the possibility of seeing parallels to the sort of direction-changing decisions that need to be made by business leaders in challenging times.

But can we take anything from a leader such as Churchill as opposed to more recent, celebrated leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Barack and Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel or Bill Gates? What makes people follow Change Leaders?

Gary Oldman as Churchill in The Darkest Hour

“Those who don’t change their minds never change anything.”

In the film we see Churchill leave the cocoon of his office to engage with members of the public on the London Underground – an exercise in understanding what the people on the ground actually want at a time of great change. He needed to explore the thinking that was taking place outside of the Cabinet meetings he attended; to feel the pulse of the people. And instead of pursuing the effective surrender of Britain, he allowed himself to be influenced by the people and to maintain the momentous decision to continue resisting.

It takes courage to challenge Group Think and it also takes courage to explore one’s own self-doubt in order to explore a dilemma fully from all angles. This depth of analysis and honesty was so effective for Churchill in both finding new ideas and also promoting a real transparency to his decision-making. This proved crucial in persuading Parliament to join him.

“The truth unvarnished.”

Churchill’s oratory skills are well known – his use of language and imagery in his speeches contain plenty of lessons to be used in the corporate world. An additional technique was to articulate clearly exactly what his doubters were saying rather than attempting to hide those views.

Change Leaders need to be agile and quick to change; they must innovate to survive.
In these challenging times, organisations are finding themselves in situations where significant changes are needed and difficult decisions have to be made. And this is where Leadership Communication is at its most important. Assistance is often needed to aid navigation towards finding the best methods of communicating those changes, as well as their impact and benefit, to staff, stakeholders, and colleagues.

This is where ACT comes in.

ACT provides specialist coaches to help leaders communicate with greater impact.
We have illuminated four of the Leadership behaviours that Churchill used in his Darkest Hour: Courage, Engagement, Transparency, Energy. And these are just some of the behaviours that we will explore with you as we coach you individually to improve your leadership style.

We will aid you in harnessing your own energy and the energy of others through improving your abilities, and those of the people around you in the organisation, to talk openly and honestly, in the preparation of direct and effective messaging, to improve your storytelling and look at how to bring people with you on a journey, how to explore challenges and alternate viewpoints in the most effective and honest manner, and how you can best communicate your vision of what your organisation can be rather than what you don’t want it to be.

Ashley Callaghan is the founder of ACT and a member of the Human Energy Organisation.  ACT uses a unique combination of tailored training, roleplay and theatre to transform the way you work. For more information, contact Ashley


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