November 17, 2020
Profile in Leadership Series: Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill held many positions during his long career and was an accomplished civil servant. He entered the Royal Military College of Sandhurst, and graduated with honors in December of 1894. He later saw action in Cuba, India, Egypt, Sudan, the front lines of World War I, and even took part in one of the last British cavalry charges in history. When he turned twenty-five, Churchill was elected to Parliament, and began his career as a statesman in the House of Commons. In his private life, Winston Churchill was an avid reader and scholar, painter, author, journalist, and war correspondent.
Historians widely attribute Churchill with being “the greatest statesman of the 20th century,” and for saving the free world. Churchill was an effective leader and statesman because of his tremendous ability to inspire people; his unique strategic insight; his relentless passion; and his imperturbable personality.
One of Winston Churchill’s chief attributes as a leader was his capability of inspiring people, regardless of seemingly ominous circumstances. The source of this inspiration was his own character. Churchill perpetually demonstrated enthusiasm, determination, and optimism—if not at all times in private, then at least always in public.
Churchill inspired British leaders and citizens, by projecting an attitude of optimism and stalwart fortitude. His robust optimism is excellently showcased in a speech he made in the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, when he spoke these famous words:
We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
He was also an effective leader because he possessed the attribute of strategic foresight. While foresight was a critical component of his leadership, there was another factor that elevated all of his talents to the forefront: his passion. Winston Churchill possessed a passion for democratic freedom that drove him to work hard for its preservation, allowing him to be an effective statesman and leader.
The last component of Churchill’s remarkable formula for successful leadership was his imperturbable personality. Coupled with a dogged determination was a personality that was capable of exuding charm and wit, and that caused people to gravitate toward him.
Of all the qualities that Churchill displayed, perhaps the most interesting was his unexpected outbursts of humility. While Churchill’s power to inspire, his strategic foresight, his driving passion, and his unstoppable personality were the core qualities that made him an effective leader and statesman, the realization that he too was a “worm” tempered his character and kept him focused. His lifetime spanned not only the two World Wars of the 20th century but other conflicts, historic diplomatic meetings, and the onset of the Cold War. Yet, he steadfastly refused to take the credit. When cheered at the demise of Nazi Germany, he responded, “I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I inspired the nation. It was a nation that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”
A great leader indeed!