On Friday, May 10, 1940, at 5:35 a.m., the beautiful spring dawn of northwestern Europe was sundered by the unanticipated, unmistakable, ominous, thunderous rumble of heavy artillery fire. Adolf Hitler himself was on the scene, directing the surprise German invasion of Holland and Belgium.
The ruthlessly effective Blitzkrieg that had been loosed upon Poland was now on the move in the West. The Wehrmacht moved with rapid, rehearsed precision through the Low Countries. Its success surprised even the German high command. The Luftwaffe hit French airfields, as well as targets in Holland and Belgium.
Amid the chaos, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain scrambled to hold together his government. Hours of political maneuvering removed any lingering doubt that the premier could not unite his Conservative party, much less Labour and Liberals, into a war cabinet.
Shortly after 6 pm, Winston Churchill was called by a reluctant King George VI to form a new, all-party government.
Where can we find them?
The premise–stated or unstated–is that there’s a leadership gap today.
Who can argue against the spectacular failures of leadership in large institutions? They range from the White House and Congress (whether in the hands of the Democrats or Republicans); to Wall Street and back around to Main Street; in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors (including religious institutions); around the world.
It’s easy–perhaps too easy–to find reason for disappointment. And yet… there is also reason for optimism.
It’s often said that these are among the worst of times for leadership… it’s also, arguably, the best of times.
This list is updated quarterly. Please send your suggestions of other inspiring 21st century leaders.