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Victory in sight? Redouble the fight

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in Leaders & Managers

Winston Churchill, Great Britain’s prime minister during World War II, never gave pep talks. Even when the tide turned in the Allies’ favor, Churchill warned about the dangers ahead.

In a speech to the U.S. Congress in 1943, Churchill drew on American history to observe that, although the Allies seemed sure to win the war, how and when could not be foreseen.

What Churchill did see was heavier work ahead. Citing the battle of Gettysburg, Churchill noted that, even though Union supporters considered it the Civil War’s turning point, far more blood was shed after Gettysburg than in all the battles leading up to it.

To keep their edge, Churchill said, the Allies now needed to brace themselves, consult with each other and redouble their efforts against Japan, Italy and Germany. If the Allies wanted to stop the slaughter from spreading, they couldn’t afford to relax.

“The enemy is still proud and powerful,” he said. “He is hard to get at. He still possesses enormous armies, vast resources and invaluable strategic territories.

“War is full of mysteries and surprises. A false step, a wrong direction, an error in strategy, discord or lassitude among the Allies might soon give the common enemy power to confront us.”

Lesson: When you’ve turned the corner and see success ahead, don’t let up.

—Adapted from Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches, edited by Winston S. Churchill, Hyperion.

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