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Churchill and “Real Leadership”

John Addison, Member of The Churchill Centre and Retired CEO,
Provides Nine Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose

Addison Leadership

John Addison described in Finest Hour 170 (autumn 2015) how the example of Sir Winston Churchill guided him during his challenging tenure as Co-CEO of Primerica and his efforts to help save the company and the jobs of 2,000 employees. Addison has now set out his philosophy in detail with his new book Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose published this month by McGraw-Hill Education.

During his more than twenty-five years at Primerica, Addison rose in management and was critical to helping the company transition after the departure of its founder. Following the financial crisis of 2008, he spearheaded the process of separating from Citigroup. These efforts culminated with a successful Initial Price Offering in 2010 that was twenty-two times oversubscribed.


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Guiding the organization through these monumental changes while also working to keep morale high, Addison developed a passion and talent for motivating others that allowed him to inspire and empower over a million people during his career. He is now Leadership Editor of Success magazine and CEO of Addison Leadership Group. Real Leadership continues his quest to build and shape the next generation of leaders.

Addison describes Winston Churchill as his most important role model. In his book he writes:

“There’s a great saying in the military that applies just as well to life as it does to the battlefield: Every plan is great—until the first shot is fired. No one knew this better than Winston Churchill, who took office as prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1940 during a time of extreme crisis. Not only was the first shot already fired, but Europe had already been plunged into world war. Churchill’s story is an epic tutorial in principled response to chaos and adversity.

“I’ve been to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, the underground complex where Churchill ran the war effort. His desk is still there, preserved in his office, and on it there sits a box he put there with a label that says, “Action This Day.” Not an in box. A today box. Whether it was five in the afternoon or 2:30 in the morning, the prime minister was not leaving his desk until the last thing in that box got handled. I can’t say I’ve always succeeded, but in my career I have sought every day to follow that example.”

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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

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