Are You A Normandy Or Dunkirk Person?

Last June 6, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion that accelerated the Allies toward victory in the Second World War.
I have taken groups of business leaders to Normandy several times since 1995. I never go there without thinking of the desperate situation in which the British were mired just four years earlier, in 1940, up the map from Normandy at a place called Dunkirk.
I still remember an elderly Englishman I saw on my first Normandy trip. We stood in the military museum in Arromanches, on the upper Normandy coast of France.  There, a half-century earlier, the British had built and floated across the English Channel mighty caissons to create a false port.
Despite the years, the old gentleman could remember every step he had taken.  He pointed to a model, and his voice rose as he showed a relative where he had stood at what point.
I knew I was in the presence of a Normandy man.  He may well have been at Dunkirk, in 1940, when the British had been forced to withdraw under Nazi pressure.  But when he returned, he came back with a different worldview.
Leaders must be Normandy people, and it is important to contrast the differences between the Normandy and Dunkirk* worldview and priorities:

  • Normandy people focus on advance; Dunkirk people on withdrawal and escape.

 All the resources of the Normandy mindset are targeted on one thing:  moving forward.  The effort of Dunkirk folk is given to escape.

  •  Normandy people pursue the enemy; Dunkirk people are chased by the enemy.

 The opposition, be it in the form of challenges, obstacles or human beings, is under siege by Normandy people.  The devil, his minions, the problems he creates and the difficulties of success all chase Dunkirk people.

  •  Normandy people are prepared to face the enemy; Dunkirk people are surprised by the enemy.

  •  Normandy people are ready with values, vision, mission, goals, strategies and objectives. 

 They are proactive.  Dunkirk people can only react and discover the best they can do is too little too late.

  • Normandy people see individual battles as part of the whole; Dunkirk people see one battle as the whole.

 A strategic battle is lost—as at Belgium’s “Bulge”—but Normandy people know that doesn’t mean the whole war is lost.  Yet Dunkirk people are sometimes ready to give up with one loss.

  •  Normandy people look for opportunities to break out; Dunkirk people watch for opportunities to retreat.

 One’s attitude will determine the types of opportunities he or she seeks.  Normandy people get pinned down on the beach and watch for a pause in the fire so they can break out and assault the enemy.  Dunkirk people get trapped in the sand, and creep back down toward the water, away from the line of battle.
As a leader, Jesus had to deal constantly with the mindset of His disciples.  He had to transform them from the cowering attitude that caused them all to run away at Gethsemane to the mentality that produced the strategic advance of the Gospel in the centuries after His resurrection and ascension.
To accomplish this, Jesus still has the power to renew the minds of His followers.  He shows us that leaders don’t just shout, Charge! They work with their teams to teach, instruct, model and embrace the lifestyle of boldness, courage, forward-thinking, and faith.

Wallace Henley is a pastor, journalist, former White House aide, leadership consultant, and author of “Globequake,” among other books. He teaches Apologetics at Belhaven University and can be reached at

* I use Dunkirk only as a generalized example.  Actually, the troops at Dunkirk were valiant men who wanted to return to Britain to regroup and returned with the mentality that characterized Normandy.