It's hard to believe that many great and popular world leaders were also the most hated ones during their life times.
Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill stand out for me in that regards.
Lincoln of course stood his ground on slavery abolition which led to a civil war in America. Almost half of the country hated him and other half loved him. He was a polarizing figure who was later assassinated by a "hater". History judged him well though and he is regarded as one of the greatest President's in the US.
Churchill had a different trajectory. He was a leader of the conservative party. He did not believe in appeasement of any group. So when there was pressure from some British folks for making peace with Hitler of Germany, he refused. And instead, he became the only major European Leader to not shake hands with Adolf Hitler.
As the World War II began, countries including the mighty France started falling around him like pin balls.. And England remained the last nation standing. Churchill led from the front. He gave hope to his own people.
Churchill proved to be a very effective leader during the World War II and led Britain to a famous victory. His tough demeanor, his oratory, his ability to influence his country men and raising the spirits of his soldiers was hailed across the globe. He had extra ordinary approval ratings and no other Prime Minister before him came close to his popularity.
Yet as the World War started coming to an end in 1945, fatigue had set it. People were plain tired of death and destruction. They wanted a change. They wanted something soft and warm to guide them through the next stage. They wanted to see government reaching out to them in form of subsidies and free healthcare and all types of socialistic benefits. And Churchill wasn't cut out for that. He was a hard core conservative who believed in individual responsibility and duty towards nation as highest form of patriotism.
The same attitude and mindset that allowed him to lead Britain to a spectacular victory was also his flaw when it came to domestic politics. By 1943-44 the opposition had sensed this. They led a spectacular propaganda against him led by the famed British press. He was busy with national crisis of war, and that allowed the opposition to set the narrative at home. In a sense, the external crisis, which Churchill was handling so well, became an albatross around his neck. And he could not keep feet on two boats - War and Domestic issues - at the same time. Being a true nationalist he kept his eye on the ball and kept his focus on the war and Germany, till he made sure UK made it past the finish line.
Britain had already lost a lot of men in the war. London was continuously bombed for several days. Many lives including women and children were lost. Although Britain kept its collective nerve against an external enemy together during the course of the war, close home they were buckling under pressure.
Churchill lost the 1945 general elections. It was one of the biggest upsets ever. A man celebrated across the Globe for leading the NATO forces and practically half the world to a great win against an evil empire, lost on his home turf.
It is said Churchill became depressed and was not seen in public for a few days. But as all great man do, he regrouped himself and reinvented himself all over again. And he became Britains Prime Minister again from 1951 to 1955.
He was and remains the most respected and quoted Prime Minister in Britain's history. He was known for his wit and repartee.. His quotes were always superlative and to the point. His brilliance in words shone itself.. whether in Parliament or in Public meetings.
Although his history with Indians is marred by rough patches of antagonism, arrogance and almost racist behavior at times, as someone who likes to find and research about great historic figures, I rank Winston Churchill as one of the most important and influencing personalities of the last century.