Leadership- Winston Churchill

This report looks critically at leadership styles and the effectiveness of Winston Churchill's leadership and look at how leadership theories were actively demonstrated by Churchill. There are many definitions of leadership that have been derived from studies throughout the years. Daft (2000) stated "leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purpose"i. I feel that for leadership to be effective, a shared purpose and vision needs to be created as demonstrated by Churchill.

Churchill inspired and motivated people and rallied them behind the war effort to fight for their country. The vision he created was victory and no surrender in order to achieve a 'Greater' Britain. Winston Churchill was born in 1874 in Oxfordshire, and during his life held a number of senior public appointments, firstly in 1911 when he was First Lord of Admiralty and held this post in the first few months of World War 1 but resigned after being blamed for the disastrous Dardanelles expedition and rejoined the army.

In 1924 Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1940 Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minster and Churchill took overii. The trait approach was formed in the 1920's and is probably the earliest and simplest form of leadership, this approach suggests that great leaders were born with key instincts and attributes that lead to success. We have all heard of statements such as "he is born to be a leader"iii. Statements like this are expressed by people who take a trait perspective towards leadership.

During Churchill's period of leadership I feel his leadership was a good example of the trait approach, however Stodgill (1974) concluded after examining over 100 studies that there are five traits that tend to differentiate leaders from followers these being, intelligence, self confidence, dominance, level of energy and activity and task relevant knowledgeiv. I feel that Churchill fits into these five areas e. g. he was intelligent and educated at Harrow; he read a lot throughout his career and in 1953 won a Nobel literature prizev.

Churchill was an extrovert and also an excellent actor, he was well known for his speeches. The dominance was related to his upbringing and from the Great Man Theory. Churchill had abnormal energy and demonstrated task relevant knowledge in his military experience in India and in Word War 1. This theory also defines that leaders of every type would have exactly the same traits. Another theory is the style approach which emphasises on the behaviour of the leader, it focuses on what leaders do and how they act (Northouse 2007, p. 69). This approach is composed of two kinds of behaviours, task and relationship.

Task behaviours are linked to facilitating the goal and relationship is ensuring subordinates feel comfortable with themselves in a particular situation. In the late 1940's Ohio State University investigated the style approach, by looking at quadrants of leadership behaviours (appendix 1). The behaviour is narrowed down to consideration and construction. Churchill has moved around the quadrants throughout his life, he demonstrated high consideration and low construction in his early years before becoming Prime Minster, he was task orientated e.

g. when writing books, he even spent his honey moon writing journals "he insisted on working on the final text 'My African Journey' when they were in Blenheimvi". During World War II Churchill demonstrated the characteristics of high consideration and high construction, e. g. he built relationships with the French government which Chamberlain had not been able to achieve. He understood the importance of communicating effectively and this was clearly demonstrated in his radio broadcasting.

During the darkest days of World War II, he kept the public informed which in return increased morale and gained him backing from the public. This model is simple and has a basis of leadership and can be linked to McGregor's Motivational X (relationship) and Y (task) theory. However it is an old model and in 1977 was further developed by the Heresy & Blanchard leadership model, which is commonly referred to as task and relationship (appendix 2). I feel that Churchill would still remain within the same quadrants identified in the 1940 and 1977 models, during the same stages of his life.

The situational approach stresses that leadership has elements of both directive and support dimensions. The model I looked at was the path goal theory developed by House in 1971. Churchill was partly an achievement orientated leader (appendix 7) and partly a directive leader. The characteristics of achievement orientated leadership are setting challenging goals for followers, and expecting them to perform to high standards, displaying confidence that followers will perform well, best used when the task is complex and when followers lack sufficient drive.

Churchill displays the characteristics within this model in all areas and an example is that he set goals uniting Britain, saving democracy and winning the war which to many seemed impossible. Then I followed this up and looked at the four areas that affect a leader, these being subordinates, outcomes, work environments and the leader (appendix 8). An example of the effect of outcomes on Churchill's leadership was that he managed to secure the support of America in 1941 and Best (2010) stated "without whose material help – and better, military alliance – Britain, he well understood, had no chance of winning"vii.

I feel that Churchill was a directive leader when comparing him to the directive leadership model (House 1971) as he possessed all of the required characteristics, in particular his ability to speak effectively, which can be shown through a quote from Ignatius J Reilly "It may not be an exaggeration to say that in 1940, Winston Churchill saved the world, and instrumental in doing that were the incredible power of his speeches"viii, this clearly supports the notion of Churchill being an effective speaker.

The effect of the subordinates is important, it was a tough time for the country, they needed direction, Churchill recognised this and connected with the public e. g. by broadcasts.