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Hitler and Churchill: Comparison of Leadership Styles

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Hitler and Churchill led the states of Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Each leader had a unique approach to leadership, and each was met with different results. This sample edited research paper studies the leadership styles, military strategies and personalities of each leader, each playing a strong role in the war's outcome.

Hitler and Churchill: Differing leadership styles 

Never more has there been such a contrast between two individuals than Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill. History records these men as prolific and profound. The former being a maniacal tyrant, and the latter, a political leader who became an honorary American. Despite their idiosyncrasies, each man operated under the guise of leadership and profoundly affected the worldly historical landscape. 

Adolf Hitler: Emotional conflict led to destruction

Hitler is best remembered for his focused devastation to the world during WWII. Hitler operated on the premise that if goals and objectives are to be accomplished, they must be taken at all costs. His leadership career "would gather speed at a rate unimagined by anyone, including himself. [Hitler] was a master at German national politics. People underestimated him, what could this demagogue with his provincial mind, know about diplomacy."1 Yet despite this supposed weakness that many believed Hitler encompassed, in May of 1940, he organized a "strike through the Ardennes. [It was] the strategy of the Western European campaign.” 2

Winston Churchill: Popularity winner

Churchill on the other hand, was an enemy of Hitler, for many reasons. Churchill is probably regarded more as a man of reason. Throughout May 1940, Churchill "stood in Hitler's path, to prevent his winning the war. [As a result] Hitler consider[ed] an invasion of Russia that might precede, or even eliminate the necessity of, an invasion of England. This consideration [would] crystalize Franklin Roosevelt's sympathy for Churchill's Britain and his antipathy to Hitler's Germany.” 3

Churchill was guided by a reasoning that was old-fashioned. Luckacs, in his book The Deal, adds that much of the impressions we have of Churchill are of hardness, but there was a softness present in the man also. Churchill worked for his respect, while Hitler's leadership was the result of a meteoric rise. "Churchill was the opponent of Hitler, the incarnation of the reaction to Hitler, the incarnation of the resistance of an old world, of old freedoms, of old standards." 4

Hitler preoccupied with world leadership role

One of the key decisions that Hitler would make during the summer of 1940 was to accomplish world domination at all costs. In March of 1940, Hitler "decide[d] on a swift and daring plan to preclude the British from getting a toehold in Norway, to beat them to it.” 5 In contrast, Churchill often found Hitler difficult to deal with, but he "understood Hitler very well.” 6

By June of 1940, the nature of the dueling men changed significantly. While each understood the motives of the other:

"Hitler realized that his conquest of Western Europe would be achieved even faster than he and his generals had planned. Churchill thought that too, but the views and moods of the two were different. [Hitler saw] the ways [by which] wars were now being fought." 7

Hitler understood the weaknesses in his enemy and used them to his advantage. Hitler concocted several ways in his campaign to dominate, and was more secretive; while Churchill "was less secretive [in his leadership approach] making speeches to inspire people withholding his worries and anxieties." 8

Churchill understood that his opponent was Hitler, a man who brought Nazi Germany's ideology and war efforts, and because of this, he "dictated a variety of orders against the dangers of some sudden German descent on England, warn[ing] that the long coast of the island was not and indeed never had been, entirely immune to some kind of surprise landing.” 9 Luckacs notes that these worries and anxieties caused Churchill "for the first time to think about returning to the Continent by attacking the Germans at various points of its coasts." 10

Churchill personality more humane; Hitler self-righteous

Churchill's personality then was more or less concerned about the morale of Britain, while Hitler's decisions arose from self-righteousness and an all-consuming hatred for the Jewish people and his rationale for using them as a "scapegoat by blaming the Jews for the economic crisis that Germany suffered." 11 However, his resolve to rid the planet of anything different from his method and ways of doing, ultimately led to his downfall.

Churchill's seemingly humane disposition caused many to question how bold he was as a leader. Despite this, however, Churchill had impeccable insight into how to deal with Hitler continually grasped to preserve his power. Hitler sought to "eliminate the power of Russia being irritated by Stalin, a source of irritation being the Secret Protocol." 12 Essentially, Hitler did not like another seemingly trying to take the power and domination he had grown being used to.

Whereas Churchill became more and more disliked because of his approach to Hitler. It seemed per Luckacs that Churchill was slow to act at times against the irrational and swift decision making of Hitler. That is not to say that Churchill did not have "an aggressive strain in [his] character." 13 But Hitler was counting on the defensive nature in Churchill in order to "subdue [the British] by force and punish them for waging war against him, a reaction somewhat similar to his treatment of the Poles, whom he brutalized after September 1939." 14

War's results dominated by leadership styles

Ultimately, many of the decisions that were made that are regarded as historical by both men were the result of their leadership styles. Hitler was more aggressive and focused his campaigns on repressing the people and enforcing communist ideology. Churchill, on the other hand, was not necessarily passive but not a warmonger. 

Churchill's style could be noted as laissez-faire and methodical; while Hitler's more authoritative. The men were only similar in that they both understood each other's strengths and weaknesses and heavily exploited them. While Luckacs does not portray or exhibit either individual as being a stronger leader, history undoubtedly provides a valid argument to be made that Churchill was more impressive of the two despite Hitler's persuasive tactics and powerful presence. His stance did help encourage America to join WWII and fight for European civil liberties.

Interested in contemporary leadership strategies? Check out our sample essay on The Dance of Leadership by Denhardt.


Luckacs, John. The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

Why Did Hitler Hate Jews?" Hitler's Children. http://www.hitlerschildren.com/article/1617-why-did-hitler-hate-jews-and-want-to-eliminate-them#.UkP2jT8X_Po (accessed September 26, 2013).

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