Winston Churchill is considered to be one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, and may be considered one of the greatest leaders of all time (Sandys & Littman, 2004). His glorious time was as Prime Minister to Great Britain World War II when faced with annihilation by Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany. Though a great leader, he has his shortcoming evident before and after his time as Prime Minister (Sandys & Littman, 2004). One area of shortcoming for Churchill, not readily understood in his time but would disqualify him in today’s political and social climate, was his lack of cultural agility.
Cultural agility is the ability to quickly, comfortably, and effectively work in different cultures and with people from different cultures (Caligiuri, 2013). Culturally agile leaders are able to correctly read the cross-cultural or multicultural context and respond appropriately (Lundby & Caligiuri, 2013). This was not the approach by Winston Churchill, or British nation at the turn of the century. While colonizing areas around the world, Britain was faced with opposition from locals who did not want to be colonized. One example of Churchill’s lack of cultural agility took place in India in 1897.
Despite warnings from locals, Churchill made his first political speech advocating the continued plan of colonization despite local opposition (Toye, 2011). The belief was that helping others in the world become more like the Brits, the locals would become more peaceful, civilized, and adopt better government practices (Toye, 2011). The same day an uprising took place among tribesman that was easily subdued but led to the whole area rising up in arms (Toye, 2011). Churchill’s, and Britain’s Philosophy was that overcoming these rebellions was necessary to held these uncivilized become loyal soldiers, peaceful husbandmen, and industrious traders out of fear of Britain’s might. (Toye, 2011).
Caligiuri, P. (2012). Cultural agility: building a pipeline of successful global professionals. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lundby, K., & Caligiuri, P. (2013). Leveraging Organizational Climate to Understand Cultural Agility and Foster Effective Global Leadership. People and Strategy, 36(3), 26–30.
Sandys, C., & Littman, J. (2004). We shall not fail: the inspiring leadership of Winston Churchill. New York: Portfolio.
Toye, R. (2011). “The riddle of the frontier”: Winston Churchill, the Malakand Field Force and the rhetoric of imperial expansion. Historical Research, 84(225), 493–512. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2281.2010.00557.x