Leadership/statesmanship

Churchill Leadership Award to General David Petraeus Recognition by the International Churchill Society

The 2017 Winston S. Churchill Leadership Award was presented to General David Petraeus at the Thirty-fourth International Churchill Conference. In presenting the award, International Churchill Society Chairman Laurence Geller stated that the general perfectly exemplified Churchillian Leadership. Read More >

On the Western Front Churchill serves on the front lines in WWI

In giving up his government post to go out to the horrific battlefields of Flanders and ‘take some active part in beating the Germans’, Churchill demonstrated again the courage he’d displayed in those battlefields of the North West Frontier and Sudan. And he certainly experienced the horrors and dangers of the trenches first hand.

He wrote to Clemmie of ‘[f]ilth and rubbish everywhere, graves built into the defences & scattered about promiscuously, feet & clothing breaking through the soil, water and muck on all sides; & about this scene in the dazzling moonlight troops of enormous rats creep & glide, to the unceasing accompaniment of rifle & machine guns & the venomous whining & whirring of the bullets which pass overhead’ (Churchill to Clementine, 23 November 1915).

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Famous Speeches – Audio Clips Listen to some of Churchill's most recognisable speeches

Here you can listen to Churchill’s recordings of many of his key speeches made over his long career. Some of these recordings are contemporary (recorded at the time), others were made by Churchill after the war, in 1949 at Chartwell, and issued by Decca in 1964

‘The printed page is not the correct medium for them, of course. To feel the shiver down one’s spine at Churchill’s words, only recordings will do. They alone can convey the growls, the strange pronunciation of the letter ‘s’, the sudden leonine roars, the cigar-and-brandy toned voice.’
Andrew Roberts, Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership

Action This Day! Churchill made things happen

Above all, in his management of the WWII, Churchill made things happen. He scribbled memoranda and despatched these with amazing frequency to his commanders in the field and stamped his red ‘Action this Day’ labels on documents, urging a speedy resolution. He demanded commitment and action alike from his colleagues and staff – just as he did from himself – and his constant prodding resulted in hundreds of different ideas and initiatives being pursued at any one time. Churchill famously employed the ‘Action This Day’ red stickers in response to a missive from four of his overworked code-breakers (including Alan Turing) in October 1941. When the under-resourced code-breakers at Bletchley Park asked for more help, Churchill wrote ‘Action this day! Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done’. Throughout his life, Churchill made things happen. He was relentlessly driven and focussed; a workaholic, determined to fulfil his own destiny and to protect his country – and he did all he could to ensure all those round him followed him and made things happen too.

‘I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen I like to make them happen.’
Churchill, undated; as Richard Langworth explains in his Churchill: In His Own Words, Arthur Ponsonby quoted this phrase of Churchill’s in a letter to Eddie Marsh, explaining that Churchill said this ‘many years ago’.

Churchill the Writer Winston Churchill was also a prolific writer

Churchill had a great gift with words. His speeches clearly demonstrate that. But he was also a prolific writer of books and articles; in his lifetime, he published more than forty books in sixty volumes, as well as hundreds of articles. The total now stands at fifty-one individual works (eleven posthumous) in eighty volumes (twenty-one posthumous). During his lifetime, he was a celebrated – and very well-paid – journalist and a very successful author. In 1953 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his contribution to the written and spoken word. How did someone who purportedly wasn’t much of a student at school, manage to become so well known, so widely read and so highly regarded as a writer? For ‘trivia’ about Churchill’s literary life, see this article in Finest Hour. For a full list of all Churchill’s books, and a brief description of each, see the same site here. A comprehensive selection of Churchill’s books – first editions, quality second-hand – as well as books about Churchill, visit Chartwell Booksellers, the independent bookstore in New York, the only physical bookshop devoted to his writings.

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Public-Speaking Problems An forgetful moment early his career led him to exceptional preparation

Churchill’s speech-making didn’t always go well. Even great speakers ‘dry up’. Although he had a phenomenal memory (he’d won a prize at school for reciting great reams of poetry), learning speeches by heart clearly wasn’t enough. Even though he meticulously rehearsed them beforehand, there was always the possibility of forgetting his lines. In the spring of 1904, making a speech in the House of Commons, he’d been speaking for forty-five minutes when – without notes to hand – he forgot his words. He struggled for ‘the most embarrassing 3 minutes of my life’, trying to remember the rest of his speech, and then sat down in silence, humiliated. So even great speakers can find public speaking difficult and stressful. After this confidence-shattering experience, Churchill nearly always prepared full notes – and had them to hand – to prevent this happening again. And thanks to this, the Churchill Archives Centre contains lots of Churchill’s speeches notes. (No wonder ‘presentation skills’ experts encourage the use of those small cards with speaking notes or handy PowerPoint slides as prompts…)

Early Steps – First Speeches Churchill's first public speeches

Churchill’s first public speech was an impromptu one, when – in his last term at Sandhurst and on a visit to the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square – he called for makeshift barriers between the sexes, erected to prevent prostitutes from mingling with theatre-goers in the bar, to be pulled down (an unlikely cause for a nineteen-year-old young man): ‘Ladies of the Empire, I stand for Liberty!’

‘He is a remarkable fellow – perhaps the finest orator in America, with a gigantic C. J. [Charles James] Fox head – & a mind that has influenced my thought in more than one important direction.’
Churchill, writing about Bourke Cockran in a letter to Clementine, 30 May 1909, in Soames, Speaking for Themselves

Although he always regarded his first political speech as one he gave at a picnic of the Primrose League (a Conservative organisation) in July 1897 (aged twenty two and still a serving officer on leave from his regiment in India), his true maiden speech in the House of Commons was on 18 February 1901.

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In on the Action (in WWII) Confronting another world war

By the time Churchill was facing another World War, in 1939, he understood more readily that while risks had to be taken, a balance needed to be struck between caution and ‘over-daring’. As Prime Minister during WWII, he walked the narrow road between the ‘precipices’ on either side; he needed nerves of steel to keep Britain and the Allies on the path to victory.

‘Winston Churchill has emerged from the first five weeks of the war as the most inspiring figure in Great Britain … He has been condemned as a Russophobe and a Teutophobe, as an irresponsible genius, but even his old critics now seem to agree that he will make a great wartime leader.’
James Reston, New York Times, 8 October 1939

Churchill 21st Century Leadership Programme Panel Debate Tomorrow's Company Business & Finance

Nigel Hall, Director of the Churchill 21st Century Leadership Programme, introduces a panel discussion dedicated to the qualities leaders must have within the world of Business and Finance, plus the challenges they face.

Chair for the event was Andrew Hill, Management Editor at the Financial Times, and the panelists in discussion at the event were Mark Goyder, Founder & CEO of Tomorrow’s Company, a think-tank that inspires and enables business to be a force for good in society; Chris Hirst, CEO of Havas Europe; Helen Brand, CEO of ACCA; Harriet Green, General Manager of IBM’s Watson Internet of Things and Commerce & Education; and Oliver Rees, Innovation Product Lead at Decoded and Churchill Next Generation leader.

copyright: Tomorrow’s Company

Debate: Foreign, Security and Political Challenges of Our Time

1 December 2015: The Legatum Institute was pleased to host the Churchill 21st Century Leadership Programme and King’s Think Tank for a debate with the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Commander of Joint Forces Command, and foreign policy and media experts, in which the key foreign, security, and political challenges of our time were discussed.

Churchill 21st Century Leadership Programme Launches Reports Launch of 16 Reports and Panel Debate

Global Leadership Programme: Publication of Panel Reports 13th October 2015 at the Churchill War Rooms

Highlights from the Churchill 21st Century Statesmanship Global Leaders Programme launch of 16 panel reports.

Introduction: Lord George Robertson

Chair: Rachel Sylvester

Speakers: Sir David King, Ruth Kelly, Michael Clarke, Olly Rees, Fatima Islam

Launch of 16 Reports and Next Generation Leaders Panel Debate Churchill War Rooms, London, 13 October 2015

The Next Generation Leaders Panel Debate at the launch of the panel reports from the Global Leadership Programme. The launch took place at the Churchill War Rooms in London on 13 October 2015.

Panel includes: Manveen Rana, Aurelie Buytaert, Emmeline Carr, Georgia Baker, Shreya Das, Olly Rees, Matt Smith, James Everson, Lilidh Matthews, Georgia Snyder, Ben Ryan, and James Dolan.

Coming Into Office Churchill becomes Prime Minister

Churchill leaving 10 Downing Street

Churchill leaving 10 Downing Street. © Baroness Spencer Churchill Papers

Chamberlain had resigned on 10 May 1940, the day that German forces attacked British and French ground forces and the day the ‘phoney war’ ended. With the only other contender, Lord Halifax, ruling himself out, Churchill’s appointment was inevitable and his time in the wilderness was over.

In the evening of 10 May, Churchill went to see King George VI at Buckingham Palace and became Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. He was under no illusions about the enormity of the task that lay ahead.

Churchill, as both Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, was in a powerful position, with full oversight of both the armed forces (all three of them; the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force) and the government of the country. He was also the only cabinet minister who had held high office during the previous war, and was widely hailed as the necessary war leader. But he did not yet have the full confidence or leadership of his own conservative party, and there were many in government who were worried that he might prove rash and dangerous in his actions. He needed to prove himself.

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The US Enters the War On 7 December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor

Back in August 1941, and the signature of the Atlantic Charter, Roosevelt hadn’t been ready or able to enter the war. But the situation changed dramatically on 7 December 1941.

Churchill was at Chequers (the Prime Minister’s official country residence) with the American Ambassador and Averell Harriman when news of the Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor came on the radio. Churchill immediately called the President to confirm the news and then on 8 December, Britain declared war on Japan.

The partial involvement of the US and the Pearl Harbor attack led Hitler to declare war on the US three days later. Did Churchill (and Roosevelt) know of the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Find out.

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WinstonChurchill.org

The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.