The Winston Churchill Biography: Qualities that ensured that Winston Churchill was a Great Leader
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on the 30th November 1874. His was an aristocratic family; he was the grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, and the son of Lord Randolph Churchill, a Conservative Politician. His mother, Jenny Jerome, was an American socialite and the daughter of a millionaire.
Below we will outline his career in this Winston Churchill biography and then move onto his remarkable leadership characteristics. There are many Winston Churchill Biography's out there but we can learn a lot from his life and leadership which will give us wisdom and knowledge to lead into the future, we hope that you enjoy and get inspiration from his life.
After attending Harrow, he went on to train at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, although he did have to sit the entrance exam three times in order to get there. He graduated in 1894 before seeing active service in India, Egypt and the Sudan. After leaving the army he worked as a journalist, covering the Boer War in South Africa. He was taken as a prisoner of war and held in Pretoria, before escaping and travelling 300 miles to safety.
In 1904 he became the Conservative Member of Parliament for Oldham, but in 1904 he switched political allegiances and joined the Liberal Party. In 1905 the Liberals won the General Election and by 1910 Churchill had advanced his political career by becoming firstly the Home Secretary, and then Lord of the Admiralty.
When the First World War broke out in 1914 Churchill joined the forces once more and served on the Western Front, before becoming Minister of Munitions in 1917. After the war (1919-1921) he became Secretary of State for War and Air, and then served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1924 and 1929. He re-joined the Conservative Party in 1925 before entering what historians have referred to as a kind of ‘political wilderness’ in the 1930s when his popularity waned. However, he was never far from the heart of politics and in 1940 he replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister.
Churchill was a talented artist and a prolific author who wrote an enormous amount. Among his works are a novel, two biographies, three volumes of memoirs, and several histories as well as countless numbers of articles written for newspapers. In 1953 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
He served as Prime Minister for the United Kingdom between 1940 and 1945 and then again from 1951-1955.
Churchill had great vision and stuck to his guns. Visiting the United States in 1931, he pointed out in a speech to Congress, that the greatest struggle for English speaking peoples would come from Communism. The USA embraced the warning wholeheartedly.
In spite of his relative unpopularity in the 1930s he continued to tread the path that he felt was right. He issued constant warnings about the danger of Nazi Germany throughout the mid-1930s and was vocal in his opposition to the Munich Agreement of 29th September, 1938 which had been drawn up between Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier of France and Benito Mussolini of Italy, and which transferred the Sudetenland to Germany. Chamberlain was keen to avoid war with Germany and felt that the Munich Agreement would appease Hitler who had agreed not to make any more territorial demands in Europe. While the Agreement was popular in Britain, some politicians, most noticeably Winston Churchill, attacked the Agreement as a waste of time. Churchill was of course correct in his assumption that the Agreement would not lead to lasting peace. Less than a year after the Agreement was signed, Hitler invaded Poland and Britain went to war with Germany.
Once he became Prime Minister, Churchill’s prime directive was to defeat Germany and Japan and bring democratic peace back to Europe. He did not stop striving for that goal until he died.
Churchill used his talent for strategic insight to great benefit. In 1910, as First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill kept one eye on Germany as it researched, developed and deployed its Navy; at the same time he prepared Britain’s navy for engagement. When the First World War broke out Britain was ready to face the enemy straight away.
Churchill learned from past mistakes. As a politician, he was a keen scholar, and had a good understanding of history and used this in order to create his strategic insight and vision. By learning lessons from the past he was doomed never to repeat the mistakes of others.
When in front of the public Churchill was unerringly optimistic and positive. He strengthened the resolve of Britain at a time when morale was low. He understood that enthusiasm for the cause and praise for people’s efforts would motivate society. He instinctively understood that unless the people of Great Britain were inspired they would suffer from low morale and a sense of defeatism. They needed to feel like winners, and that they were ‘all in it’ together, and he inspired them to think that way.
Churchill was persuasive. He made a country feel like they could do great things, but he was also a workhorse. He led by example, putting in long hours himself, and talking to everyone from all walks of life. He was decisive. He had to be.
Honest and direct
Churchill was realistic. He didn’t shirk from big decisions or his responsibility. When things did not go exactly the way the allies expected in 1942, Churchill travelled to the USSR to face Stalin alone and break the news to him rather than entrust someone else to deliver the details or ignore the Soviet leader altogether.
Also in 1942 when the War was not going particularly well there was a crisis in Churchill’s leadership. Churchill decided that rather than put up with the endless backbiting and rumour mongering that could potentially damage the Country’s morale and the war effort, he would insist of a vote of confidence. He won the vote with 464 votes to 1.
Churchill was a great diplomat who built strong relationships with both the United States and their President, Theodore Roosevelt, and with the Soviet Union, under Stalin which was a much trickier prospect. He also encouraged European Unity at all times.
Churchill vowed never to surrender to Germany. He would rather the whole of Britain sacrificed itself to the last man, woman and child. On the 28 May 1940 he made an impassioned speech in which he said: "If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground".
This determination was evident within Churchill even as a child. In his younger days and as a young man he had a speech impediment, a lisp, which he had to battle for years in order to overcome. Overcome it he did. He went on to become one of history’s greatest ever orators.
Churchill was an Elder Statesman of the traditional kind. He was 65 years of age when he became Prime Minister for the first time. By then he had 40 years of political experience behind him and had been involved in one conflict or war after another. He was a man who was the sum of his parts. He was enterprising and courageous and over the years he developed as a person. He was at times a soldier, a writer, an artist, a politician.
He was also a product of his times. He was a late Victorian with all the virtues of discipline and manliness that that time encouraged; and yet at the same time he was part of a culture that was modernizing and industrializing at an impressive and unprecedented rate. He was born into the greatest of Victorian Empires and so was involved in endless conflict. These challenges helped to shape the Statesman he would become.
At the same time he was described by those who knew him as intuitive and romantic, sociable and a great team player. He described himself as a ‘glow worm’ because people gravitated towards him and his warmth and charm.
Churchill was an excellent communicator. He did not believe in keeping others in the dark and so shared the information that he possessed. At the same time he expected to be kept completely in the know. He set up a hierarchy of departments and engaged the most knowledgeable and experienced personnel as his Chief of Staffs. But he also engaged in walkarounds and fact finding missions by visiting and holding interviews with junior personnel. His approachable personality ensured that people were open and honest with him and he was able to act on what he found out.
Oftentimes Churchill found himself under incredible amounts of pressure. He suffered from stress and from time to time he was dogged by depression, which he termed the ‘black dog’. In public, however he exuded tranquillity and remained calm. He stayed focused on the task at hand and worked towards his vision at his own pace. He instilled confidence among those around him at all times.
Winston Churchill died on 24th January 1965, nine days after suffering a massive stroke. Queen Elizabeth II decreed that there would be a state funeral for Britain’s greatest ever war Prime Minister. His funeral processed through London and his body was carried on a barge on the Thames, in front of representatives from 112 nations. A memorial to Churchill can be found at Westminster Abbey.
Leadership Lime endeavor to provide our visitors with biography's of some of the best leaders throughout history. If you liked the Winston Churchill biography then return to our famous leaders hub for more in depth bio's.
Reading through this winston churchill biography you might be astonished by his leadership characteristics. We have sections on particular leadership characteristics and leadership traits which might help you understand some more of the qualities that we've outlined here in the winston churchill biography.