Six Leadership Traits of Winston Churchill
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Sir Winston Churchill Photo by Yousuf Karsh
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born on 30th November 1874 to an aristocratic family of the Duke of Marlborough. He served numerous political positions in England however he was most famous for being the man whom England turned to when the Second World War broke out.
In his younger years, Churchill found himself under the care of his nanny, Mrs. Everest. His parents were too busy with their social and political life. He described his relationship with his father as a distant one.
“I then had one of the three or four long intimate conversations with him which are all I can boast.”
—Winston Churchill on his father. My Early Life – A Roving Commission (1930)
He was not a bright student. More often than not, he found himself punished for his actions. However, one incident changed his life, the death of his father. This leads to his conviction to do whatever he can, the best he can to leave an indelible mark in history.
While some may argue about leaders are born, not made, Churchill on the other hand, displayed a wide array of leadership traits, most of which were developed through ups and downs of his career. It was these that defined Churchill as one of the greatest leaders in modern history.
Here are 6 leadership traits we can learn from Churchill.
“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? How else can we put ourselves in harmonious relation with the great verities and consolations of the infinite and the eternal? And I avow my faith that we are marching towards better days. Humanity will not be cast down. We are going on swinging bravely forward along the grand high road and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.”
— Winston Churchill, Speech at Kinnaird Hall, Dundee, Scotland (1908)
During the war, Churchill was well known as a visible leader. He was often seen visiting factories, bombed houses, and talking to people. It was this alluring aura that consolidated the Britons. Some people whom Churchill interacted with said after; they can do just about anything! He knew the value of speech and though not a natural orator, he worked his skills and made his influence crawl from every corner of the Allied Forces.
“It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar. I also hope that I sometimes suggested to the lion the right place to use his claws.”
Churchill was an outspoken critic, and at one point he was accused of being a warmonger when he foresaw the imminent war coming to UK. He portrayed himself as a lone voice calling for rearmament against Germany in the early 1930’s
On the 3rd of September 1939, British declared war against Germany after it had attacked Poland. Churchill was appointed Prime Minister on May 1940.
“I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”
Churchill was a dedicated man. He was a war correspondent, a solider, a writer and a statesman. He was passionate about the betterment of his country, regardless of his good and bad criticisms. And of course, more than passionate about winning the war as it would be shown later in his career.
He was also considered a great writer, publishing a great deal of books such as The River War (1899), the biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill (1906), story of his ancestry, Duke of Marlborough, and his Memoirs of the Second World War that covered six volumes. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Churchill took up painting as his pastime during the Second World War.
Great leaders have visions and they are not shy of showing it to their followers. Having clear goals are as vital as any weaponry you bring to a battle, a powerful tool used in times of adversity and chaos.
“You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
Churchill’s vision: total victory. Ever wonder where that V-sign originated? He was one of the first advocates of it and used it to rally for Victory.
Considered to be the utmost skill any leader could have is courage. Churchill held one of the toughest posts during the Second World War; tougher still were the decisions he made to carry on until the very end of it.
When France surrendered to the Axis power, Britain stood alone to fight the war. In spite of this, Churchill didn’t waver. If he did, the whole nation of Britain will succumb to the power of Nazi Germany.
“Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
—Speech given at Harrow School, Harrow, England, October 29, 1941
All characteristics of a great leader mentioned above would be meaningless unless put into action. Churchill didn’t stop working until the break of dawn. He will put a sticker on orders — “Action This Day”.
“I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact if anything, I am a prod.”
After the collapse of France, Churchill was concerned that the French would pass over their battle ships to the Germans. As a result, he initiated the attack on the Battle of Oran, six ships were destroyed and more than a thousand French naval servicemen died. This was a symbol as to how serious Churchill was to carry on, no surrender.
“We shall not flag or fail. 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 the 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…”
—Speech in the House of Commons (4 June 1940)
Sir Winston Churchill rose to the occasion to rally his nation, even if winning the war at one point was bleak. He was a man of great bravery and optimism. In times of despair, Britons looked up to him for reassurance. He was an immovable wall, forever confident and forever protective.
Leadership exists in many forms in each one of us, we are essentially bound on a condition of using it or not. There are some, who can be called good leaders, and there are a few whom can be considered great, Sir Winston Churchill belongs to the latter.
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