The Grand Alliance

By Winston Churchill

A grand account of the Grand Alliance that ushered the demise of Nazi Germany and its axis powers in in World War II.

In The Grand Alliance, volume three of his six-part account, The Second World War, Winston Churchill provides an account of the war, a biographical history, and a clinic on organizational leadership. As he does in volumes one and two, Churchill focuses on a single theme:

Volume 1: The Gathering Storm: How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.
Volume 2: Their Finest Hour: How the British people held the fort ALONE till those who hitherto had been half blind were half ready.
Volume 3: The Grand Alliance: How the British fought on with Hardship their Garment until Soviet Russia and the United States were drawn into the Great Conflict.

In The Grand Alliance, Churchill the invites the reader to walk with him through the events of a single year, in this case 1941. We witness Russia, initially aligned with Nazi Germany, switch sides. We watch how Britain comes to their aid again and again despite the ingratitude Joseph Stalin often displays. We see Churchill's efforts to foster a great alliance with President Roosevelt and his key aids all the time hoping the U.S. will enter the war.

There is so much to glean from and appreciate about this volume:

1. The magnitude of Churchill's capacities: In 1941 Churchill serves Great Britain as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury and Minister of Defense. The scope of his knowledge is mind-boggling: Geography (seen as he discusses various conflicts and troop movements throughout the world), theaters of war, personnel, troop strength, armaments (tanks, planes, munitions, ships), agriculture, U.S. pork production, women in combat, foreign relations, the long-term impact of Japanese steel production . . . it just goes on and on! Churchill has a grasp of seemingly every facet of the war and its impact on the world.

2. The effectiveness of Churchill's crisis management: See my post "What Churchill Can Teach You About Leading In A Crisis"." It's a baker's dozen of leadership insights for crisis management drawn from this volume.

3. The insights from Churchill's organizational leadership: Churchill demonstrates essential ABC's of organizational leadership: Action this day! Read the Prime Minister's personal communication from 1941 and you will often see "Action this day" above a memo. The Prime Minister had a bias for action and expected the same from his subordinates. Churchill held his leaders accountable. Broad mastery/minimal management. As noted, Churchill's understanding of the war and it's impact at home and abroad is stunning. He read and read and read internal and external sources to enhance his mastery of the situation at hand. While he often offered suggestions and demanded a response to his inquires -- at least from his published correspondence -- he rarely overstepped or micromanaged. Communicate. Churchill was the master of the "one page." He required reports to be cogent and brief, essential to him disseminating massive amounts of information. Delegate and praise. Churchill knew his limits as to his understanding and to operational oversight. He expressed praise generously but not capriciously.

The Grand Alliance is a long read, 903 pages including index and appendices. There are 150 pages of appendices. One need not read them, but you skip them to your detriment. As in other volumes they are a goldmine of insight on Churchill, the conflict, and how he operated as a leader. The appendices are a treasure trove of leadership lessons.

Read The Grand Alliance.Yes, it will take you some time, but will be worth every effort.

NOTE ON THE AUDIBLE VERSION Audible offers an "unabridged" version. It's very good, but it is nowhere near unabridged nor does it include the VAST majority of Volume three. Actually, it skips between volumes three and four and back and forth through volume three. I have a paper copy and the Audible version. I have read the paper and listened to the audio. The actual book is MUCH MORE comprehensive. That said, the Audible narration is fabulous and the account is fascinating.