4 Lessons Learned from Winston Churchill Leadership

Winston Churchill Leadership: a thing to master. As Britain’s most charismatic Prime Minister who led the nation through victory during the Second World War, Winston Churchill excelled where even history’s best brains would have dismally failed.

Whereas his ability to inspire fighting men and civilians alike was his most pronounced strength, there’s still much more to admire about Winston Churchill’s leadership style.

We’ll explore the 4 critical elements that made Winston Churchill a great leader in his own right and how you can begin implementing them today.

Infallible Communication Skills

Churchill had an influential way of speaking to his nation. Besides the classic textbook answer that communication must be concise and straight-to-the-point, Churchill taught us a precious bit more beyond this mantra. He had five clear strategies that he followed:

  1. Be clear about the people you are communicating to. Who they are, what their needs, worries and concerns might be – Ensure your message fits with the people you’re talking to. 

There’s no point talking strategically, and using ‘management-speak’ to a team that just wants down to earth answers on the latest business developments. Talk at their level and how they want it communicated.

  1. Make sure that you have a clear purpose – Start with the end in mind. If you’re going to discuss the latest developments in the business, understand what the output is. 

Do you plan on getting their feedback or taking actions? Do you plan on passing this feedback on to senior management? If you start with the end in mind, you can tailor how you will communicate in a better way.

  1. Ensure you have all the relevant facts and information to hand – Never come unprepared. If something is worth discussing, then prepare for it. Churchill was quoted as saying that he spent hours for each word he planned to speak on his addresses to Parliament, his nation and his forces. 

If you need supporting data to back up your point, then present it in a way that clearly shows this. If you’re going to tell the team that things are worse than they are, then present the facts. Never use conjecture.

  1. Arrange your discussion in a logical order, Follow the 6 step model below:
    1. The introduction – Why are we here – if it’s a team meeting, this could be a simple 1 or 2 sentence intro to the team. If it’s a speech, it may be longer;
    2. The statement of facts (and proof)– Run through the data that you have about the issue. If it is a drop in sales, show them. If its poor performance, be clear when and where;
    3. The discussion of facts – Open up the discussion and drill down to what happened, why and how. Seek their feedback on the data and generate a discussion. This promotes a 2 way communication;
    4. Refute any objectives that people may have – If you’re delivering a speech, then this can be powerful. If it’s addressing a team, then try to overcome their issues through the delivery of the facts and objectivity;
    5. The conclusion – What’s the outcome? Be clear to summarise the key points. If there are actions, then summarise and ensure owners to each action agreed. Think SMART. If you are to take feedback away, tell them what the next steps will be and by when.

All these points should be blended seamlessly into one main delivery, taking the listener on a journey, as you subtly influence their decision making.

5. Be sincere and speak from your heart. This was perhaps Churchill’s most significant trait – his audience realised that he believed in what he was saying. They believed it too and very often acted on his words.

Everytime you communicate, ensure you start with the end in mind. Be clear what the purpose is.

Get straight to the point. Speak from the heart and present the facts, along with arranging your point using the 5 key factors above.

Think about how you can discuss important aspects with your team members – how you can galvanise them.

How you can present new ideas and change in a way that satisfies the above 6 steps, whilst including sincerity in your discussions.

Deathless Passion

Another excellent aspect that made Winston Churchill outshine other leading figures of his day, was his deathless passion and enthusiasm. He held the view that ‘man’ can always rewrite ‘his’ future.

He believed that they can do it as long as they have an unstoppable willingness to overcome setbacks.

His leadership was built around passion. He rallied the entire nation because he had passion in what he was saying. He led the armies and the nation forward.

Learning from Winston Churchill Leadership: You must believe in the goals and objectives of your team. If you don’t, then you won’t emit the energy needed to galvanise your team. Without this you can’t show passion.

Even if you try to hide it when you speak, you’ll merely be coming across as someone that isn’t genuine. People can see through fake emotions.

If your objectives and mission aren’t inspiring you as a leader, how can you expect them to inspire your team? If this is the case, change it.

Can you reword your goals with the team?

Can you redefine yours and their objectives, so they fit with you and your team’s values?

By doing this successfully, you’ll be able to lead with passion, because you’ll believe in what you’re doing.

Unwavering Vision

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying that the resolute British troops under his stewardship would strive by hook and by crook to beat the “monstrous tyranny” of the Nazis. Explaining Britain’s unwavering vision, Churchill described ultimate victory as their next destination.

Despite the pressure and sacrifices being made, he stuck to his vision and frequently conveyed it to his people. By no means was this vision wrong and would he be reneged.

He had the courage and perseverance to see it through. And he inspired his people to follow his lead, no matter how hard it was.

One of his greatest quotes is a testament to this unwavering belief in his vision:

“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 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.”

Learning from Winston Churchill Leadership: When you have your team vision and objectives, you must keep galvanizing your team to achieve them.

Don’t drop it when times are hard. For instance, a company’s vision may be to provide the best quality products in the industry.

If your team is struggling to meet increased demand, cutting corners and dropping your high quality standards will set the wrong example. 

Would Churchill have done the same?

No chance.

Action-Centred Leadership

Winston Churchill understood the action centred leadership approach. He knew that to lead effectively, he had to ensure that he achieved the objective to win the war.

He managed the nation and galvanised them to believe in his vision.

He then worked with key people in his team to ensure they delivered and were inspired to do so.

His globally broadcast keynote addresses shortly before the fall of Berlin, inspired everyone, showed the standard to follow and gave great direction in Britain’s approach  to the war. He imbued all with the unyielding pledge to fight in water and in the air…and capping it all off by assuring that surrender is never an option.

In fact, Churchill’s leadership style was never to boss others around. He used powerful actions – in the form of respect, communication, inspiration, and leading by example – to show his followers exactly how things were supposed to be done.

A Lesson from Winston Churchill Leadership: Communicate regularly with your team. Ensure they know what they need to do and how.

Work with them to develop their skills as a team. Coach each individual, so you can develop them on a one-to-one basis. Never criticise them. But lead with integrity. 

You’ll soon see the fruits of your work, in a team that is galvanised, empowered, and high performing.