June 4, 1940. London. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Winston Churchill, among history’s greatest orators, delivers one of the most rousing speeches ever heard, his now famous, “We Will Fight on the Beaches.”The House of Commons thunders in an uproar at his stirring rhetoric. Victory was the only acceptable outcome.
We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
An amazing rallying cry, no doubt one of the best. In times of war, defending a life of liberty and the sanctity of freedom, this is a sentiment that allows us to send young men and women into harm’s way. It has preserved a way of life for which many around the world should be more openly grateful.
It is also a sentiment that many companies, and their leaders, choose to live by. This in inherently wrong. This can be a road to both personal and professional failure.
While I agree that fortitude, perseverance, and tenacity is an absolute for success, it’s not about never surrendering. It’s more about never giving up. As Churchill said in a speech made to the boys at Harrow School on October 29, 1941:
Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
I can hear it now.
Never give up, fine. But surrendering sounds so wrong! Why is it a good thing?
Surrendering is an opportunity to do it differently. Recognize that the current way you are leading your people, your business, or your life may not be the best way. Surrendering allows you to create space for you or your company to grow into something bigger and better. It allows you to look to others for assistance and be grateful for the experience they have to offer.
It’s an opportunity to defy Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity…
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
As writer Shree Picar so eloquently puts it…
Surrender is a conscious act that comes out of one’s inner strength and occurs through the use of one’s free will and one’s own choice. Surrender is when one consciously chooses to shelve old systems of behaviour and belief to allow a new way of knowing and acting to enter one’s being.
This is also distinctly different from submission.
Submission is a passive action which implies the abrogation of any responsibility for one’s own behaviour…. A person who submits rather than surrenders is a victim, an effect, rather than a cause in his or her life.
This is also not about leaning in, a term now popularized by Sheryl Sandberg, a great commentary of which can be found at The Guardian. It’s not about working harder, spending more hours in the office, and merely taking advantage of opportunities as they come.
It’s about working smarter, being self-aware and self-assured, and understanding that there is always room for learning and growth.