Winston Churchill was certainly one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. But it was not without trial nor failure. His leadership character was forged in the crucible of suffering and fatigue. Trying times will do that. He brought a nation through the horrors of war and led them with a resilient spirit. His fingerprints are still keenly felt upon the United Kingdom even today.
A worthy read is Churchill on Leadership, by Steven F. Hayward. He succinctly distills crucial leadership principles that stand the test of time.
According to Hayward there were four essential aspects of character that set Winston Churchill apart from other, ordinary politicians.
1. Candor and plain speaking. I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.
2. Decisiveness. Ponder, and then act.
3. The ability to balance attention to details with a view of the wider scene. The longer you look back, the farther you can look forward.
4. A historical imagination that informed his judgement. An efficient and successful administration manifests itself equally in small as in great matters.
Here are few quotes from Churchill that I believe directly apply to leadership in any age:
An accepted leader has only to be sure of what it is best to do, or at least to have made up his mind about it.
We must learn from misfortune the means of future strength.
Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
There ought to be ways of reforming a business, other than by merely putting more money into it.
It is essential that you should beforehand give the decisions which allow your lieutenants to act effectively.
I would rather be right than consistent.
It is a good thing to stand away from the canvas from time to time and take a full view of the picture.
Say what you have to say as clearly as you can and in as few words as possible.
Laugh a little and teach your men to laugh . . . if you can’t smile grin. If you can’t grin keep out of the way till you can.
There are plenty of good ideas if only they can be backed with power and brought into reality.
There is never a good time for vacation so take one anyway.