Sir Winston Churchill: A Study In Effective Leadership Essay, Research Paper
Sir Winston Churchill:
A Study in Effective Leadership
Few leaders stand out in the history of the twentieth century more than Sir Winston
Churchill. Remembered mainly as Great Britain’s prime minister who led the first
successful stand against Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, he showed the world the
importance of democracy and liberty by leading the battle against fascism and
dictatorship. Churchill appeared headed for greatness even at his birth in 1874; his
grandfather was the first Duke of Marlborough and his parents were Lord Randolph
Churchill and Jennie Jerome, the American daughter of the New York Times proprietor.
The first step towards being a great leader was not to rely on his family’s achievements,
but to forge his own path to success. “He yearned to follow his father into politics”
(Wheeler-Bennett, 1968), but when his father died in 1895, that path was closed due to
the lack of funding. His poor academic performance prevented entry into most profitable
careers, so a young Churchill exercised his last option and joined the British Royal Army.
From this point, Churchill built an impressive career in the British government in from
the military, in Parliament, as Prime Minister, and finally as a politician determined to
make the world aware of the threat of Communist conquest. Throughout his long and
illustrious career, Winston Churchill stood out by demonstrating strong values,
determination, and cooperation, qualities absolutely necessary in effective leadership.
Sacrificing for Values
Many politicians get caught up in their personal quest for greatness and forget about
those they represent. Standing up for core values, though often one of the most difficult
tasks in politics, is the reason Winston Churchill is still admired. His first accomplish-
ment in Parliament was seeking to “align the Conservative Party with property owners
with the interests of the working man” (James, 1970). Soon, he was assigned to social
policies, where he earned his reputation as a social reformer, setting up unemployment
pay, as well as a job placement service. Later, after a temporary resignation in 1916, he
fought in the trenches in the World War. In modern history, few men of Churchill’s
importance have risked their lives on the battlefield. But his values were truly tested when
England stood actionless while Adolf Hitler slowly threatened the freedom of Europe.
Great Britain, worried about economic recovery from the depression, chose to appease
Hitler rather than arm the military in case of a German strike. Churchill, ever the
opponent of tyranny, warned repeatedly of Hitler’s rise in power. Germany finally
fulfilled Churchill’s prophecy by invading Poland on September 1, 1939.
When Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister in 1940 he was
immediately faced with two choices; continue the war, therefore pushing Britain further
into debt, as well as inflicting thousands of English casualties, or attempt to negotiate
with Hitler. Negotiation may have saved thousands of British soldiers, but millions would
have paid the price in Hitler’s pursuit of a “purified” Europe. Ultimately, Churchill not
only backed the continued war effort, but through many rousing public addresses, gained
needed support. Towards the end of his life Churchill once again championed against
totalitarianism, this time against a Soviet “iron curtain” swallowing eastern European
countries. His acts and speeches challenged a dangerous post-war China and Soviet
Union, countries not long before considered Great Britain’s allies. Though unpopular, this
served as a final demonstration of Churchill’s eternal willingness to sacrifice popularity
in the pursuit of his beliefs.
Setbacks and Determination
In no way was Winston Churchill perfect. Failure plagued his political career from the
beginning, but Churchill separated himself from lesser leaders by never quitting. Often a
mistake in judgment led to temporary dormancy, but after he regained his peers’ trust, he
returned a stronger man. Churchill’s first significant political setback came with the
failure of his Dardanelles campaign during the first World War. “He overestimated
knowledge and capacities; once enamored by an idea and a plan, his total concentration
on it and devotion hindered him” (James, 1970). The campaign discredited Churchill, but
as mentioned before, he joined the trench fighting to earn back the respect of his peers
and soon rejoined the House of Commons. In a span of eight years, 1924 through 1932,
Churchill was dismissed from the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, and the newly
formed Labor Party would have nothing to do with him. Discouraged but confident,
Churchill spent time with his writing and his family, while silently awaiting his country to
need his unique energy and boldness. World War II provided that opportunity.
When Churchill became Prime Minister, Germany was on the verge of European
conquest. Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France had been beaten and Great
Britain was the next logical step. But German air raids, as well as a wounded army were
not enough to make Britain surrender. Churchill was sure that the superiority of the Royal
Navy would decide the battle of Britain. Churchill himself said, “wage war until victory is
won, and never to surrender ourselves to servitude and shame, whatever the cost and
agony may be . . . Conquer we must–conquer we shall” (Bonham-Carter, 1965). Nazi
resistance was truly Britain’s finest hour. “They dug the dead and the living from the
rubble, manned their beaches, tightened their belts, and watched spellbound the
aerobatics overhead of Fighter Command’s fighting–and eventually winning–the Battle of
Britain” (Keegan, 2000). While Churchill was using his famous oratories to maintain
British hope against an invasion, his troops slowly made headway by winning key battles
against the Italian forces and eventually delaying Hitler’s victory long enough for the
United States and the Soviet Union to enter the war. Even in the bleakest of
circumstances, Churchill remained strong. His persistence was the first step to Allied
victory and made him one of the great heroes of modern history.
Cooperation through Adversity
Winston Churchill often emphasized the importance of “standing alone” in his
speeches, but he always knew team work was necessary to be truly successful. Without
unconditional cooperation within the military, the state, and the public, Britain would
have been destroyed. And without the cooperation of the Big Three– Churchill, Franklin
Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin, Nazi Germany would never been defeated. As an effective
leader, Winston Churchill was the catalyst behind these acts, yet he never forced any
response. He allowed his writing and his voice to influence a weakened British
population, giving inspiration and direction to his people. Even as Prime Minister, he
valued their opinions and was “sensitive to the basic trends of the group” (Gardner,
1970). He chose to be a diplomat, rather than a dictator. The British rallied around their
leader with support and a sense international democracy and liberty. As the British stood
up to Hitler, Churchill gained admiration and assistance from Roosevelt and Stalin,
completing the trifecta necessary to save the free world. By working together, the Big
Three accomplished the victory Britain could not have done alone, each bringing unique
leadership skills that united different cultures to fight for a common goal of freedom.
Working with other leaders was not easy for Churchill. “Roosevelt and Stalin shared a
bond he did not” (Keegan, 2000). But a humbled Churchill showed that in crisis,
sacrifices are necessary for a united victory.
Churchill accomplished so much in his life by presenting himself as an effective
leader in the most crucial times. He predicted the major European shifts in power, worked
on economic reforms, and led the Allied powers to victory in World War II. Each of these
successes was met by upholding strong values, displaying determination, and possessing
a willingness to cooperate, qualities present in every truly successful leader.
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