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Winston Churchill: A British Statesman Essay Sample

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Winston Churchill: A British Statesman Essay Sample

Political scientists have always been extremely fascinated with the inner workings and sources of political drive within world leaders. Dr. James Barber departed from the psychoanalytic approach and devised a framework of his own. Barber uses a different approach to classify a leader; he begins with the person in office and works backward. Barber places utmost importance on the leader’s personal effort and his/her attitude towards that effort. The relationship between the two aspects is what Barber relies on to make his classification. According to Barber, there are four types of leaders active-positive, active-negative, passive-positive, and passive-negative.

Barber Framework

The four different classifications in Barber’s framework are based on the personality and attitude of the leader. The active-positive group is well balanced and achievement oriented. They are extremely active in the everyday functions of the office and have an optimistic world view. The second group, active-negative leaders, is similar to the active-positive leaders in that they are active and goal oriented but they have a second agenda. They are working for the people, but they do so in order to fill a void in themselves, not in the service of man.

The third group begins the passive side of the matrix and seems to be much less involved in the everyday operations of the office than the active classifications. The passive-positive leaders are much more like spectators. They want to be liked and delegate authority to those around them; they also enjoy the stylistic aspects of the job. The passive-positive leaders are very trusting of people and very forgiving. The last group is the passive-negative group; these leaders tend to view the office as more of a duty and are personally reclusive. The majority of leaders from this group have strong military backgrounds.

Background on Churchill

Winston Churchill is one of the most recognizable names in British history; he led the country through WWII, one of Britain’s most tumultuous times. Churchill was born November 30th 1874 into a privileged family but his father was not the first born son and consequently did not receive the family title. Despite the fact that he would not receive the family seat in the House of Lords Churchill was able to ascend to the highest tier in British politics, Prime Minister. Along with his years as Prime Minister he served in countless cabinet positions and military appointments.

Churchill under the Barber Framework

The personal characteristics that Barber uses to classify leaders are the amount of effort the person puts into his office, the type of language a leader uses, and personal relationships with the people around the leader. The characteristics allow Barber to gage whether a leader is active or passive and positive or negative. When the three aspects of a leader are taken into account, Winston Churchill falls into Barber’s active-positive categorization. Churchill is highly involved in the everyday operation of the government and trusting in his staff. Churchill strives for results and puts forth the time and effort needed to get them.

Effort and Dedication

The first factor in Churchill’s classification is the amount of effort he puts forth. Churchill’s tenure of office was as difficult a period in history as any and he did all he could to sustain his people and his country through WWII. Churchill rarely took time for himself and often put the office above his personal wellbeing. “The voyage on the Prince of Wales provided Churchill with the first opportunity since the war began of having something approaching a rest” (Charmley, 1993).

Churchill worked tirelessly throughout the war to and closely interacted with the people who ran British war efforts. Churchill was the Minister of Defense, as well as Prime Minister, and heavily involved himself in all aspects of the military campaign. “Admirals, generals, and air marshals were Churchill’s daily bread during the Second World War. For five years they came in scores to 10 Downing Street to lunch and dine, but principally to confer, and when they were not visiting Churchill was visiting them” (Colville, 1981).

Churchill had competent men working with him during WWII, but he believed it necessary to inject himself into as many aspects of the campaign as possible. “With Churchill the driving force from the chair, service chiefs and scientists could bring under review every aspect of the fight to keep the sea lanes open” (Woods, 2000). The words of Woods show how the presence of a figure such as Churchill removed some of the everyday pressures that military officers usually face.

Not only did Churchill try to relieve the strain on the military high command, but he actively took part in the examination of high level intelligence. “Churchill’s interaction with the intelligence services can be described as almost continuous” (Woods, 2000). The passion that Churchill displayed was not just a simple inquisitive disposition; Woods goes on to say that no British leader in modern times equaled him in passion for secret intelligence and how to use it (2000).

Rhetoric and Language

Winston Churchill is believed by many to be one of the best orators to ever set foot in the Parliament. Churchill was certainly a prolific speaker and no one will ever question the polish of his craft. Churchill is positive in his use of language but does not set forth as many ideological goals as other positive leaders. The idea’s of Churchill and his “concentration on victory rather than ideology” was a direct result of the events going on around him (Colville, 1981). Churchill was Prime Minister during WWII not during a time such as the great depression when ideological goals and ideas were really prominent. Churchill spoke to empower people and give them the courage to push on toward the greater goal. “The atmosphere of steadiness and fortitude was not created by Churchill out of nothing, but his moving language strengthened these currents in public opinion and made them predominate” (Ball, 2003).

Churchill was the type of speaker who was able to inspire people during the worst of times; he was able to tell people the truth and still fortify their will. “His first speech as Prime Minister, on 13 May, had struck a new note of realism and determination, with its promise of blood, toil, tears, and sweat as the way to victory however long and hard the road may be” (Ball, 2003). The speeches that Churchill made in the House of Commons gained him support, but his radio broadcasts had the most influence (Ball, 2003). Churchill did not push simple survival as the British objective during WWII; he painted Britain as a defender of freedom, tolerance, and justice against those who would see to the demise of such values. Churchill was a positive and inspiring speaker during a time when little positive and inspiring news was present.

Personal Relationships

The men around Churchill trusted his judgment in times when a politician’s ideas would have usually been dismissed. The background and experience Churchill had in the military afforded him a measure of credibility that is often absent in a politician’s character. “From the outset there was no doubt as to who was in charge, and Churchill’s authority was rarely questioned” (Ball, 2003). The fact that those around him knew his will and usually abided it did not mean that he did not rely on professionals when the times called for it. The leadership style of Churchill was obviously a take charge approach and was loyal to his staff as long as they completed their tasks. Churchill was not afraid to replace a commander, “when he lost confidence in their drive he could be brutal about replacing them”, Ball goes on to say that Churchill’s actions were necessary and “rarely capricious” (2003).

The men around Churchill understood how he worked and always looked upon him with great admiration. The three top Chiefs of Staff were under the greatest pressure and “generally accepted it as apart of the price for Churchill’s unique talents, drive, and inspirational leadership” (Ball, 2003). Churchill would stand firmly behind a decision and support his staff as long as they were deserving of the support. Many believed that Churchill was the greatest combination of dignity and justice saying, “When the time called for it the man could fire his greatest ally and hire his greatest enemy, it was just a case of what he saw as the most beneficial to his people” (Colville, 1981). Delegation of authority was not a problem for Winston Churchill, but he never let the authority get to far from his sight. Churchill was a man dedicated to preserving his country no matter what.

First Independent Political Success

Winston Churchill was born into a privileged family but did not enjoy financial stability early on in life. In 1899 Churchill made his first attempt to reach the House of Commons, even though he ran in a district where his father held prestige and a traditionally Tory sentiment he was defeated. Shortly after that Churchill got a posting as war correspondent to cover a colonial war in the Boer republics. During his time in the republics he was captured along with others on a reconnaissance mission by armored train (Ball, 2003). Churchill managed to escape from the prison camp he was being held in. “When Churchill arrived in Durban on 23 December 1899 he was hailed as a war hero, for his audacious escape was one of few bright spots is a dismal period of British defeats” (Ball, 2003).

Prior to his successful escape from the Boer prison camp many harbored ill will towards Churchill because of the way he was able to slide up the military chain of command. Churchill sought the help of his mother and, “her charm and social contacts smoothed the way” (Ball, 2003). The escape from the Boer camp received great acclaim in Britain and gave Churchill the name recognition he needed to make his next move on Parliament. Churchill lobbied his new found notoriety into his first election to Parliament on 1 October 1900 (Ball, 2003). The new success that landed him in Parliament also allowed Churchill a new found confidence and career speaking across Europe, Canada, and the United States.

Others now recognized the importance and ability of Churchill. The success gave Churchill a new direction in life and he soon began to ascend the Parliamentary ladder. A questionable move in the life of Churchill arrives in 1904-1905 when he “converts to the Liberal Party and later in 1905 his conversion to Liberal Party manifests itself into appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty” (Woods, 2000). Churchill was never considered a party politician and his new ambition seemed to guide him to the side that most fit his ideas at the time. The rise of just a twenty-six year old man to Parliamentary election is in no small measure thanks to the recognition his daring escape brought him. There are some who may contend that the first independent political success of Winston Churchill was his election in 1900 but the escape provided the means for the success. Without the escape itself and recognition he received for it he may have floundered in political obscurity for years to come.

Driving Factors that Contributed to FIPS

The personal ambition and drive of Churchill was certainly a factor in his escape from the Boer camp. Several others in the camp were originally planned to accompany Churchill but no one else managed to get over the wall (Ball, 2003). Churchill also had his natural will to survive to rely upon. Once Churchill returned to Britain following his heroic escape he was able to put to use the other aspects of his character that made him so appealing to the British people. The family name had a prominent place in British history Churchill himself was an extraordinary public speaker.

Churchill’s writing ability and his mother’s social connections afforded him the opportunity to make a name for himself in the Boer republics. Upon his capture and incarceration Churchill’s courage and natural ability to devise coherent plans of action paved his way into the national spotlight. Some believed that Churchill had left the others behind since he was the only one to escape but upon the return of other prisoners the story was confirmed and Churchill’s fame only grew. Churchill had actually waited for the other prisoners longer than they had planned putting himself in greater danger than necessary (Ball, 2003).


The Barber framework gives political researchers an alternative to the psychoanalytic approach and makes some interesting assumptions on the motivation of individual leaders. The framework seems to have a grasp on some figures through history, but seems to fall short when used to study more complex individuals. Every person has his or her own method and approach to situations and it seems like Barber does not take this factor into account. The people who surround a leader also weigh heavily on individual style. When a person is surrounded by the best and brightest total involvement may not be the best route to take.

Churchill was difficult to classify because he demonstrated characteristics that could have been interpreted several different ways. He had intense drive to succeed and thought very highly of his own abilities; perhaps this is why he saw fit to involve himself in every aspect of his office. The accounts and biographies written on world leaders are often skewed to the feelings of the writer so accurate information on personality and ambition can often be difficult to find. Churchill was born into a family with extensive political history but little political success. The drive and determination that Churchill demonstrated may have been solely for his our personal desire to achieve. Churchill guided Britain through near destruction and no matter his motives the service he provided allowed the country to push through and defeat the Axis Powers in WWII.

The Barber framework does not lend enough importance to the goals a leader is able to reach during his or her time in office. A President such as Carter is classified as active-positive and contributed little if any to the advancement of American society. Leaders such as Johnson are classified as active-negative, but they sometimes deal with much greater issues while in office. Leaders do not dictate all the events that take place while they are in office and it seems like accomplishments of leaders should have a greater deal of importance than Barber allows them.

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