This article is about Winston Churchill as a leader. We first look into the important parts of his life which are relevant from the context of leadership. From his military and political life key qualities such as persistence, optimism, strategic and critical thinking and oratory skills were shown. He was a transformational leader and a strategist based on the seven transformations of leaders’ concept. His charisma, intellect, vision and courage among others draw people to work in his team including us.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was one of the most controversial yet key figures of the 20th century. He is tainted with multiple fatal political decisions/mistakes such as Gallipoli, supporting the use of poisonous gases, deploying the Black and Tans in Ireland, and Bengal famine (Hayden, 2015). Churchill continues to be regarded as one of the greatest Britons. He is considered to be one of the greatest wartime prime ministers’, inspiring and motivating the British citizens to fight against the growing Hitler’s power and not surrender to it (Simpson, 2015).
Churchill was born with a silver spoon to Lord Randolph Churchill, and was married to Jennie Jerome. Churchill’s career was primarily in the field of politics as a parliamentarian and Prime Minister. He was a great orator and writer which earned him a Nobel Prize for contributions in the field of literature (Keegan, 2000).
Churchill was not good at academics. This limited his career prospects forcing him to join the army. He served for the army in Cuba, India, Sudan and South Africa. His claim to fame comes from saving an armored train and escaping from the Boers’ captivity. During his military service, he discovered his passion for writing and wrote several best-selling books such as The River war and Savrola (Nicholas, 2019).
Churchill’s dream was to join politics; just like his father and grandfather. His first attempt at the elections was not successful. He still was persistent and used the money earned through his books and journalism to contest in the next elections for the Conservative party. This continued persistence to make a career in politics shows that Churchill learned to overcome failures early on. He rose through the ranks and held many important office positions such as the President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, etc. He implemented various policies such as an eight-hour working limit, ensuring minimum wage and combating unemployment (Nicholas, 2019).
Churchill was fond of the Royal Navy. He strived hard to make sure it received the necessary funds to expand its fleet (Heffer, 2014). He believed that a strong navy would be Britain’s best chance against Germany. It was during this time, he successfully argued to fight against Turkey, Germany’s ally. This turned out to be a disaster as the army was pushed back resulting in over hundreds of thousands of casualties at Dardanelles. Thus, began the downfall of Churchill; he was demoted to lower ranks of the army and made to serve in the trenches. After the war, a series of wrong choices outcast him to the backbenches of House of Commons (Keegan, 2000).
The year 1939 was the defining one for Churchill and arguably for the world. He was asked to lead the nation at the time of crisis and uncertainty; an environment where Churchill thrived. He was one of the few to see the rising Nazi power and warned every one of the imminent war. When the war eventually broke out, Germany’s strong military conquered Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. The next target on Hitler’s list was Great Britain (Keegan, 2000).
Hitler was optimistic about Britain’s surrender. Churchill was in a catch 22 situation where the only logical option was to surrender in order to save the army trapped at Dunkirk. After due consideration, he got civilian boats and yachts from Britain to rescue the army. Once the army was away from the dangers of Dunkirk coast; war was declared (Keegan, 2000).
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on till the end… We shall fight on the landing grounds; we shall fight in the fields and in the streets… we shall never surrender,” said Churchill in one of his speeches in the House of Commons (Keegan, 2000). He used his power of speech and charisma to persuade and energize the citizens. During the dark age of the 1940s, where they were threatened by invasion, death, and starvation; he gave them faith, and confidence they needed from a leader at the time of adversity. Bold and objective decisions brought victory to the allies (III, 2017; Keegan, 2000).
When everything was going wrong on the efforts made to stop the Nazis, he took a critical yet controversial decision of sinking three French ships containing their army to stop Hitler to gain access to them. This was crucial to ensure that the Nazis would not acquire the French Naval fleet. Bold and critical decisions like these brought victory to the allies.
“God bless you all. This is your victory. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Neither the long years nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy, have in any way weakened the independent resolve of the British nation” he said on 8th May 1945, the day Germany surrendered (Keegan, 2000). The crowd admired Churchill as a war leader and not as a party head. Despite his significant contributions towards winning the war, the conservative party failed to win the 1945 elections. Churchill focused more on the extravagance and disconnected himself from the party. The social, economic reforms planned by the Labour party connected more with the citizens in the post-war state, resulting in their loss (Keegan, 2000).
Things to learn from his life is to abide by one’s principle, however hard the situations be. As followers, he expects us to accept the hard ways to achieve the common goal we see for the community as a whole. Active participation, critical thinking and no matter how uncertain the situations are, adhering to the goal we set to reach. Being a follower, we expect him to be visionary and always abide by the principle he stated. He should listen to the feedback of the followers. We expect him to support critical thinking, and active participation of the fellow followers that creates an environment for effective followership (Leliaert, Leadership & High Performing Teams, 2018). Disconnection from the team and following personal agenda as Churchill did in his first election campaign after World War II, is clearly not acceptable (Nicholas, 2019).
Churchill in spite of all the highs and lows in his life has emerged on a high note in the pages of history. Overall as a leader Churchill has proven to learn from his mistakes. Possessing good oratory skills, charisma and intellect he was always able to convince the hesitant citizens, despite of all uncertainties and consequences. With good foresight and vision, he was able to take crucial and strategic decisions in the crunch, and critical moments in the war. This helped him clean up his poor image developed post World War I. People began to admire and respect him for bringing pride and valor to The Great Britain.
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