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Part I: The Leaders We Had and the Leaders We Need

True character reveals itself in hard times.

As one ponders the current global pandemic, and perhaps even the impending financial difficulties that await us on the other side, one could be forgiven for being overcome with melancholy and woe. Why must life be filled with such perils, we ask ourselves? Well, before one slips down the proverbial rabbit hole of doom and gloom - never to again view the world through the prism of positivity - one may do well to recall the challenges of our forbearers, and ultimately take solace in the fact that “this too shall pass”, to quote Winston Churchill. 

We may take solace in the fact that some extraordinary men (and women) will, with challenge as their catalyst, be spurred on to accomplish some extraordinary feats during this time - the likes of which will one day be recounted, as we have just done of Churchill, from the annals of history.

To this end, the words of Helen Keller, that “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved”, seem particularly pertinent. And so, without further ado, we revisit some of the leaders who have encountered hardship and emerged victorious - not to mention having done so in style.

We are going to do this in 3 parts, beginning with...

Berthold Beitz

Considered by many as Germany’s answer to Agnelli - largely because of his sartorial sensibilities and his stature as an ‘industrialist’ - Beitz headed the Krupp steel conglomerate in the 50s.

When asked what his own definition of happiness was, humanitarian Beitz replied: 

"I've been very lucky in my life. Pericles said the secret of happiness is freedom! The secret of freedom is courage! - On that I acted. You have to seize the happy moment - and do something with it. Of course, you also have to have the courage to do it. But courage is rewarded! That is my experience."

And this man had courage...

..because all his achievements in the field of economy, his fashion consciousness and his great taste were far outshone by his selflessness when he was stationed in Poland during the Second World War as head of an oil company.

In the middle of the Holocaust, he saved hundreds of his Jewish employees from forced deportation. In 1973 the Israeli memorial Yad Vashem declared him "Righteous Among the Nations". 

However, the feelings of guilt weigh too heavily in the face of the thousands that he thought he was unable to save at the time - and so he accepted the award much later.

The Spiegel asked in one of his many articles about Beitz: Why did Beitz act where millions of Germans looked away? He himself downplayed his actions and said, "If I had been scared, I would have been lost. I wasn't allowed to be afraid, and so I wasn't." 

The Spiegel states that to this day, Beitz's actions during the war are an implicit indictment against everyone who has remained idle in comparable situations. 

As you see, his legacy is no coincidence and full of nobility, courage and selflessness. Characteristics that make a true leader. 

And we should all take that as an example.

So gentleman, during these difficult times, we implore you to heed the words, wisdom and style of those that have come before you, and go forth to accomplish great things.

In Part II next week you will find out who lived at the limit, was believed dead and made an incomparable comeback...