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Leader Analysis: Winston Churchill

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Leader Analysis: Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was arguably one of the most significant political leaders in the last century. A soldier, athlete, author, reporter, British politician, and international statesman, Churchill is best known as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940-1945. He organized and guided British resistance against Nazi Germany's effort to subdue the European Continent and heavily influenced the subsequent and much larger allied war effort that was eventually victorious over the axis powers. This paper will briefly outline Churchill's life; discuss attributes of his leadership style; discuss why I selected him, what I hoped to learn in conducting this research, and discuss personal "take-aways"; and, finally, I will identify lessons for managers.

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on November 30, 1874 into the prominent family of Lord Randolph Churchill. He was related to the First Duke of Marlborough-the foremost general in modern British history and the hero of the 1704 Battle of Blenheim. He had a distant relationship with his father and closer, but not close, relationship with his mother. After his father's death in 1894, he became closer with his mother. He was largely raised by nannies and boarding schools, where he was unruly and a generally poor student. It took a number of tries to be admitted to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst where he graduated in 1894. He actually excelled and graduated with honors - 8th of 150 cadets �€"as a cavalry officer. In 1896, Churchill experienced his first military deployment to the British Colony of India where he honed his military skills and excelled as a polo player on the regimental team, ultimately leading his regiment to victory in the coveted inter-regimental polo tournament. He also experienced his first taste of combat on the then Indian border against the ancestors of today's southern Afghan Pashtun tribes. He wrote his first book about this experience, The Malakand Field Force. Bored with garrison living, Churchill finagled an assignment that would allow him to participate in the ongoing British military operations in the Sudan. He fought in the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. He intended to write another book for the purpose of gaining notoriety, which he did about his experiences in Sudan, it was called - The River War. Churchill already a noted reporter and author went to South Africa in 1899 to observe and report on the Second Boer War. He was captured, held prisoner, and later escaped which contributed to his increasing notoriety, yielding two more books, and launching his political career.

He was just twenty-five years old when his political career began in 1900 with his election to the House of Commons. He would continue to serve his nation, as a Member of Parliament and as an officer in a number of administrations, for sixty years including two terms as Prime Minister from 1940-1945 and 1951-1955. As Addison's article suggests, Churchill embroiled himself in the greatest issues of the day, from social, to defense, to foreign policy, leading the most important posts in government and playing significant roles in the direction of British policy during both World War I and World War II. He was elected as a Conservative party Member of Parliament from Oldham. In 1904 Churchill switched parties from the Conservatives to the Liberals, in a political environment where this was unheard of. According to Haffner, "Churchill is the only known example in British parliamentary history of someone who did this and survived unscathed." He served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty in the run up to World War I. As First Lord of the Admiralty he was responsible for the administration, readiness, and direction of the British Navy, notably the only part of the Armed Forces prepared for World War I at the outbreak of hostilities. In 1915 he presided over the most significant political and military defeat of the war �€" the Gallipoli campaign. Churchill, in searching for an alternative to the statement on the Western Front in France, advocated for an attack from a different direction to force the Germans to fight on multiple fronts �€" he chose to fight at Gallipoli on the Dardanelles Peninsula of Turkey. Gallipoli was a disaster and Churchill resigned in its aftermath. Out of government, he successfully lobbied for reinstatement of his Army commission and a command in France. For six months he commanded the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the trenches. After his command was reorganized and eliminated, he returned to the Liberal Asquith government as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air. After the war, Churchill again switched parties and served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin. After a ten year absence from leadership, Churchill was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty on the outbreak of World War II. Culminating in 1940, with the resignation of Neville Chamberlain, he was appointed to his first term as Prime Minister.

In the following paragraphs, I will analyze Churchill the leader and the characteristics of his leadership style using our framework for transformational leaders. Addison offers that, "Winston Churchill grew up to believe that history consists of the deeds of great men, whose actions determine the fate of nations. His lifelong heroes were Marlborough and Napoleon, and his highest ambition was to play, like them, an epic role on the international stage." As the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940-1945, Churchill demonstrated the characteristics of a transformational leader. Transformational leaders create the vision and environment that motivates employees to achieve higher levels of performance. Churchill created the vision and environment that lead his nation and the allies �€" the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union �€" to victory over the Axis Powers during the Second World War. From our reading and discussion we know that the characteristics of a transformational leader include: being charismatic, being inspirational, being intellectually stimulating, showing individualized consideration, being credible, being creative and innovative, and demonstrating strong emotional and social intelligence. I will assess Churchill's leadership through the lens of three of these characteristics - charisma, intellectual stimulation, and creativity.

Churchill was notably a charismatic leader. In our classroom discussion, transformational leadership was described as someone exhibiting charisma by showing passion; articulating a vision to capture the imagination of others;

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