CommunicationLeadership: Say it like a leaderResiliency & attitude

What Yousuf Karsh taught me (and leaders can do)

PHOTO CREDIT: Stock Unlmited

Such a shame that a piece of Canadian history, created by the famous photographer Karsh, has been stolen from the walls of the historic Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. A theft like this hurts all of us.

If you want to read the recent CBC article, click HERE.

Sir Winston Churchill, PHOTO CREDIT: Yousef Karsh Yousuf Karsh was a Canadian-Armenian photographer known for his portraits of notable individuals. He has been described as one of the greatest portrait photographers of the 20th century. SOURCE: Wikipedia

Yousuf Karsh was a client of my husband’s. Steve knew him and his lovely wife, Estrellita, for somewhere around 15 years. He did all their upholstering. (Steve had many interesting and high-profile clients and businesses and has always been discreet in parsing out details).

I remember in the early 90s almost meeting Karsh, the man himself. Almost.

It was Steve’s birthday in February circa 1991. We were living in Ottawa and I decided to surprise Steve with dinner in the Byward Market and a night at the beautiful Chateau (PS: It’s fun to experience your own town as a tourist. If you’ve never done it, do. You’ll appreciate your city with new eyes).

Steve, having been at the Karsh’s penthouse unit dozens of times over the years, asked if I wanted to meet them. YES! We hopped in the elevator and ventured up to the top floor, knocked on the door and waited. We knocked again and waited. Nothing. They weren’t home :(.

Although I never met him, I love hearing about Karsh’s quirky sense of humour and seeing his immense talent captured in his timeless photos. He’s everywhere. Years ago, we walked into Sloppy Joe’s bar in Key West only to be greeted by the large black and white iconic portrait of Hemmingway. Yup, that was Karsh’s work there too. He captured portraits of visiting dignitaries, movie stars, and politicians. Anyone who was anyone had a photo taken by Karsh. He honed his gift and shared it with the world.

All that to say, the gifts you have and share with the world live on. You will be remembered.

What do you want to be remembered for?

For  Yousuf Karsh, it’s not only his talent I think of, it’s how he treated people. In the final analysis, that counts. You will be remembered for how you treat others.

It would only be fitting that Canada gets back this Karsh portrait of Sir Winston Churchill.

Karsh confided in Steve the secret of how he got that famous scowl on Churchill’s face years before it became part of his legend — he did it by snatching the cigar from Churchill’s lips just before he clicked the shot. And that, right there, was Karsh. He had a playful way of coaxing the real personality out of someone and capturing it in a portrait so others could see and appreciate. Pure magic.

That’s what leaders do.

#Karsh #leadership #communication #resiliency

©2022 Marion Grobb Finkelstein (MarionSpeaks)

Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation” 
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Leadership communication expert, Marion Grobb Finkelstein shows leaders at any level how to build resilient and respectful workplaces by changing how they communicate. Chat with her at or and sign up for her FREE “Marion’s Communication Tips” at

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Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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