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Leadership: Winston Churchill

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Leadership: Winston Churchill

Leadership: Winston Churchill

What is the definition of leadership? Based on the definition from the text book Organizational Behavior by Griffin and Moorhead, it states that leadership is both process and property; this means that the leader must use influence to direct and coordinate a group or an individual. This individual must also have a key set of characteristics that subordinates will willingly follow (Griffin, Morrhead, 2012). There are several leaders throughout history that embody this definition, but none more so then Winston Spencer Churchill. He helped guide his country and the world through some of the toughest times in history, and did it with great character and resolve. His leadership style is summed up into four key area's frankness and plain speaking, certainty, the capability to balance attention to details with a view of the wider scene, and a historical viewpoint that informed his judgment (Hayward, 1998). These qualities set Churchill apart from other great leaders, because he recognized them and set them to use. Churchill had a keen understanding of history and the role that it would play in the future and how to decipher it. Also it is important to point out that his attention to detail as well as the big picture, is critical to any leader and should be looked at more in depth.

Rise to Prominence:

Winston Spencer Churchill served in seven different cabinet posts between 1905 and 1955. He began his office as one of the youngest men ever to serve in high office, and finished his career as one of the oldest prime ministers in history (Hayward, 1998). His journey to prominence started with him joining the military; Churchill was posted and fought in battles in Cuba, India, and the Sudan. In 1899 while on break from the military Churchill ran for parliament, he was not successful in his bid for parliament, so he

instead travels to the front lines of the Boer War to be a journalist. This move turned out to help propel him to greatness. While reporting the war he was captured along with other British troops in an ambush. Churchill managed to save several wounded soldiers, and was in the process of going back when he was captured. He spent a few weeks as captive and escaped. At this point the British had been losing battles; the British people were dejected with the results and saw Churchill as a glimmer of hope. Upon his return to England he again ran for parliament and was elected as a Conservative MP. This marked the beginning of his leadership role in the British government that spanned over fifty years (Gilbert, 1991).

Leadership Accomplishments:

Churchill's leadership qualities are unmatched as he has several different leadership accomplishments and showed leadership in a variety of ways. He held nine executive offices for the British government in his political career. This does not include other business ventures that Churchill led; although these undertakings are impressive, they pale in comparison to what he did within the British government. These are the executive offices Churchill held and the programs he oversaw, while holding these positions:

* 1905-1908 Colonial Under-Secretary- Transvall Constitution

* 1908-1910 President Board of Trade- Labor dispute mediation, Arbitration courts, Labor exchanges, Minimum wage

* 1910-1911 Home Secretary- Strike intervention, Home rule for Ireland, Prison reform, Insurance Act, Labor and Shops Acts

* 1911-1915 First Lord of the Admiralty- Naval Staff reorganization, Fleet power conversion (coal to oil), Naval Air Corps, Ship development project, Tank development project, Dardanelles offensive

* 1917-1919 Minister of Munitions- Streamlining of ministry, Output increases

* 1919-1920 Secretary of State for Air & War- Russian intervention, Demobilization

* 1920-1922 Colonial Secretary- Home rule for Ireland, Middle East reorganization

* 1924-1929 Chancellor of Exchequer- Gold standard restoration, Income tax reduction, Sweeping tax reform, Coal strike mediation

* 1939-1940 First lord of Admiralty- Norwegian offensive

* 1940-1945 Prime Minister- World War 2

* 1951-1955 Prime Minister- Cold War settlement mediation

Traits, qualities, and characteristics:

Winston Churchill possessed numerous leadership qualities that could be discussed, but the basis of all his decisions were based on four distinct traits.

1) Candor and Plain Speaking- Although this certain trait could be considered a hindrance; no one ever had to question where Churchill stood on issues, his constituents, and his personal beliefs. This caused people to criticize him throughout his career, but this is what set him apart in real time of need. J. R. Colville one of Churchill's personal secretaries explained his was way of presenting a speech "The composition of a speech was not a task Churchill was prepared to skimp or to hurry; nor, except on some convivial occasion, he was willing to speak impromptu. He might improvise briefly, but only to elaborate or clarify, and he stuck closely to the text he had prepared. Quick as was his wit and unfailing his gift of repartee, he was not a man to depart in the heat of the moment from the theme or indeed the very words that he had laboriously conceived in set- speech form" (James, 1980, pg 671).Churchill believed in himself and his views enough not to be swayed by anyone's thoughts or opinions. He also understood that sometimes his remarks would sometimes come back to haunt him, he once stated, "In the course of my life I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet" (Hayward, 1998, pg 5).

2) Decisiveness- Once again this feature was at times scrutinized by many, believing that Churchill did not take the proper time to consider his decision and the consequences of those decisions. This is another example of Churchill's great confidence in himself and the willingness to take responsibility for his actions. Churchill made a comment on his decisive nature, "An accepted leader has only to be sure of what is best to do, or at least have made up his mind about it" (Hayward, 1998,



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