Thoughts + Articles

Leaders are Tinkerers, Builders, and Developers         

Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Elon Musk.

Real leaders are builders. They build relationships, build bridges, and make others stronger! The most recognized and acclaimed leaders realize the importance of effective communication and how that skillset is a cornerstone for “tuning in” to their team member’s needs, as well as the desires of their customers. 

How do great leaders and communicators tap into the greatness of others? They master the art ofbeing interested.  Everyone loves to talk about themselves. A great leader will inquire before they inspire. This is the “buy in” necessary for credibility.  

Have you noticed when you give a person an honest sincere compliment they light up with huge smiles of happiness? They glow!

Great leaders expect adversity!

Great leaders build and develop their countries and business organizations by developing,  educating, and inspiring their people.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

As a child, he was sent to boarding school at 7 years old. He “played cricket, rode horses, studied the piano, and begged to be allowed to learn the cello or the violin.” At Brighton he went to “concerts, pantomimes, and dances.” He said, “I am learning to dance now and I like it very much indeed.”

He enjoyed “music hall tunes, for which he had a prodigious memory, or songs from the Savoy operas of Gilbert and Sullivan that he loved to sing.”  When Winston was almost 10 years old “he wrote to his mother of a lovely stamp book and stamps that he had bought.”

Winston Churchill as a young man wrote dispatches while serving in the British Army as a young man, becoming an independent war correspondent and continuing his prodigious writing output after entering Parliament.. (Personal Development Winston Churchill on Hobbies by Mary Pat Campbell)

At the lowest period of his political career in the spring of May 1915 when he lost his office as First Lord of the Admiralty. he started to paint. He painted 100s of paintings. Churchill in 1921 wrote his essay entitled “Painting as a Pastime”. He discovered an escape that allowed his mind to wander, think, and create. 

 As a leader of his country when two other countries wanted to take over his country he rallied his country men and women to fight “no matter what the difficulties Never, Never Give Up!”
During the darkest days of WW11 Prime Minister Winston Churchill stayed strong for his country.Prime Minister Winston Churchill also said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

No matter how difficult the problem was Prime Minister Winston Churchill stayed strong and said Never, Never, Never, Never Give Up! He kept his country safe and strong. 

Despite how dire the battle seemed, or how negative the voices were around him, Churchill consistently broadcast a message of optimism, strength, and victory…and it worked!

Churchill understood the power of optimism to set the foundation for victory.

Churchill understood the importance of laughter when it came to keeping an attitude straight. ‘Laugh a little, and teach your men to laugh… If you can’t smile, grin. If you can’t grin, keep out of the way till you can.'”

During a B.B.C. broadcast, Churchill proclaimed: “We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime. From this, nothing will turn us-nothing. We will never parlay, we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him by land, we shall fight him by sea, we shall fight him in the air, until, with God’s help, we have rid the earth of his shadow.”

“Churchill not only saw reasons for hope and confidence in the darkest days of World War II but he was able to infuse his unique combination of stoicism and optimism into the very backbone of the nation, the armed services, and his own staff.” 

Leo Amery, a minister in Churchill’s government said, ‘No one ever left his cabinet without feeling a braver man.’… Great leaders bring out the inner strength that people often do not know they possess.”

Churchill empowered others to be their best selves!

Churchill presided over one of the great and most dramatic turning points of civilization. His actions were pivotal in the shaping of the world that we live in today.

“He knew that if he could rally the mind, spirit, and heart of the British people, they would eventually emerge victorious. Churchill not only saved Britain from defeat but now in retrospect, he saved democracy as a form of government in the world. Here was truly a single individual whose life made a profound difference to everyone on our planet.” Hyrum W. Smith, What Matters Most (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

What 3 lessons on leadership did Prime Minister Winston Churchill teach?

1) Be optimistic and confident. “Bring out the inner strength of people.”

2) Churchill, ‘Laugh a little, and teach your men to laugh.”

3) “If you can’t smile, grin. If you can’t grin, keep out of the way till you can.”

Churchill was a builder and lifter of people.

Lesson: When in doubt, check your attitude and the attitude of those around you. 

Prime Minister Margaret Roberts Thatcher:

If you were the new Leader of your country and your country was on the brink of disaster with virtual bankruptcy, rising unemployment, rising inflation, and crippling labor strikes, what actions would you take to save your country and what leadership principles would guide you to success? 

In 1979 Great Britain’s economy was bankrupt and the newly elected Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher immediately set to work privatizing all nationalized industries such as aerospace firms, telephone firms, utilities, the National Freight Company and public housing which was sold to its tenants. She sold all these industries at favorable terms to promote private enterprise. Her aim was to reduce government power and promote the rights of individuals who would be property owners and pay a mortgage on their new properties.

Labor unions were crippling Great Britain with their intimidation and strikes. Prime Minister Thatcher stood firm against the unions bringing the coal industries and the steel industries under control. Employers and their workforce had achieved the proper balance. It was no longer necessary for men to join the unions. 
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher believed in putting her “faith in freedom, free markets, limited government and a strong national defense.”

Early Family life and education of Margaret Roberts

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham, England to Alfred and Beatrice Roberts on Oct.13, 1925. As a child, Margaret Roberts learned about the business of balancing budgets in her parent’s, the Roberts grocery store in Grantham. Her family lived above the store and she and her older sister were raised to be truthful, to attend church, to help others and do charitable work in their close community. Margaret’s father, Alfred Roberts talked daily about Conservative politics in their home. In Grantham he was a councilor in local politics.

Margaret graduated from Oxford University in Chemistry in 1947. She greatly admired one of her professors who shattered the glass ceiling and won a Nobel Prize

 After graduating she worked as a chemist. One of the companies she worked for was J. Lyons & Co., a food conglomerate, developing soft serve ice cream.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher chartered new territory in male dominated areas of government and business. She went to law school after being married at a time when women did not go to law school or work outside the home when they had young children. She understood the value of a law education in society to help serve others. 

She had the courage of her convictions as a leader to never give up regardless of the obstacles. With character, honor, integrity, and hard work she accomplished her goal to serve others. As the First Woman Prime Minister of Great Britain, she left a legacy for her country, her children, and grandchildren of economic growth and prosperity and the right and honorable way to do business. 

When she left office in 1990 her legacy was a sound economy with a society that was confident about its future.
Leadership Principles: As a leader she believed in working with experts who shared her vision, her plan of action with a shared goal of repairing Great Britain’s economy. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was nicknamed the “Iron Lady” by the Soviets for the tough line she took against them. As a leader she had strength, determination, honesty, integrity, and the courage of her convictions with a passionate belief in the right way to get her country back on track once again.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to shake things up. There is a first for everything. 

Elon Musk, engineer, physicist, entrepreneur, businessman, investor.

Elon Musk’s Early Years: Elon Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa. Elon Musk in grade school, taught himself how to code. Elon excelled in physics and computer science.

In 1997, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in Physics and economics. After graduation, the first company he founded with his brother Kimbal Musk was Zip2, an online business directory (Think of it like an online version of the Yellow Pages…if you are old enough to remember.)

In 1999, the company was sold to Compaq Computer Corporation for over $300 million. From that sale Elan Musk founded with 3 other co-founders,   (online bank). The board of directors ousted Musk as CEO to put in “a more experienced leader.”

A year later, merging with Confinity,  formed PayPal. Musk, who was CEO of PayPal at the time, was ousted in favor of Peter Thiel, Confinity cofounder in 2000, while he was on his honeymoon.

Like Steve Jobs, Elan Musk was replaced/removed from leadership roles in 2 of his companies…but he did not let that stop him. 

In 2002, Musk and his partners sold PayPal to eBay “for $1.5 billion stock deal.”

In 2002 began his quest to send the first rocket to Mars. (Space X) The cost of purchasing a Rocket was 55 Million dollars. Elon Musk used First principle thinking to solve this cost problem.  

First Principle:

“Identify the problem. Break things down into smaller parts.  Then look at each part individually, each component. Look outside your product category for a part or piece that can be imported. Combine the parts to create something new according to desired outcome. First Principle thinking.” (Story from Darren Hardy)

Elon Musk: “What’s a rocket made of?”

“Aerospace – grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber.”

“Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two percent of the typical price.” 

Step by step he built his own rocket better and cheaper.

When evaluating an entire project, the costs may seem like they are set in stone, however, when you break things down into bite-sized pieces, they can be more manageable. 

For example: 

Problem: My car makes a grinding sound when braking. 

Total solution: replacing brakes, pads, rotors, whole assembly. Cost: $1000. 

Individual solution: 

Most times replacing brake pads is sufficient. Cost $200. 

Reducing challenges into bite-sized chunks is not only a great recipe for cost reduction; it is a fantastic way to remove friction from your customer experience. 

By asking himself questions he solved his problem and built a new rocket from the ground up stronger, better and cheaper.

Elan Musk led, built, and developed the following additional companies: In 2004 Tesla, 2006 Solar City, Open AI in 2015, and purchased Twitter in 2022 improving and making it better.

2004: Tesla: “These days, Musk is perhaps best known for his leadership at Tesla the electric car company named after famed inventor Nikola Tesla. Valued at over $1 trillion at one point in 2021, Tesla was founded in 2003 by two other men; Musk entered a Series A funding round with an investment of $6.5 million, and eventually took an increasingly active role in the company. He has been CEO since 2008. The Model 3 is the most popular electric car in production today, with over old million units sold globally.” (Time Magazine, A Complete Timeline of Elon Musk’s Business Endeavors by Raisa Bruner, April 27, 2022)

One of the fundamental keys to Elon’s success (and that of his companies) is hiring the right people. Elon interviewed everyone at SpaceX personally in the early days. 

One size does not fit all. He selects the best hires based upon the task. “You know, it’s different, and I’m not necessarily looking for someone who has brilliant analytic ability if their job is going to be assembling hardware. But I think, generally, I look for a positive attitude and are they easy to work with, are people gonna like working with them? It’s very important to like the people you work with, otherwise life and your job is gonna be quite miserable. And, in fact, we have a strict  sensor at SpaceX. And we fire people if they are. I mean, we give them a little bit of warning. But if they continue … then they’re fired.”

“It’s not merely his background with programming, branding, rocket science, economics, and physics that makes Musk such a talented organization builder. He’s also supremely skilled in evaluating talent in face-to-face scenarios, in choosing the right candidate for a given role, and in selecting individuals who propagate a carefully delineated company culture. And everyone would agree that this is an important aspect for hiring people.”
Elon Musk: Developing, building companies, employing Americans!

In the early days he had 500 employees working for Space X. On September 2023 he has 13,000 employees working for Space X.

Three takeaways from Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Elon Musk:

1) Prime Minister Winston Churchill “Never, never, never, never give in…”  He rallied a nation by his words!

2) Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, stood up to bullies. She took a stand!

3) Elon Musk: there’s a better way.  Why do it this way?

It can be made better, less expensive. 

Leaders are tinkerers, builders, developers and thinkers!

Madeline Frank, Ph.D., is an Best Selling Author, speaker, business owner, teacher, concert artist, and parent. She helps businesses and organizations “Tune Up their Business”. Her observations show you the blue prints necessary to improve and keep your business successful. Her latest book “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget” is available everywhere books are sold. If you need a speaker or virtual speaker contact Madeline at:

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 4th, 2024 at 9:17 pm and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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