Churchill is my inspiration through 'dark, difficult times', claims Reid.
Mr Reid - rocked by a succession of blunders at his department - said the wartime premier demonstrated that true leadership wasn't about the good times.
The Home Secretary spoke of his long-term admiration for Churchill in an interview with BBC History magazine.
"He was a man of such strength.
"Leadership isn't having people follow you when everything is going right, but having the self-confidence and endurance to sustain yourself through difficult periods," he said.
The young Mr Reid was steeped in Churchill's words because his father would often quote his most famous orations.
"Even now, they are quintessential leadership speeches," Mr Reid said.
"They are giving a guide and a lead; they encourage, they are educating and inspiring, and in their defiance of the worst things in life they are, I think, unsurpassed."
Mr Reid - believed to be considering challenging Gordon Brown to become the next Prime Minister -also said that he was attracted to Churchill's "rebel" streak and the way he took on challenges.
"He looked for adventure, he took on every challenge, he went off to the Boer War, was taken prisoner, escaped -that rebelliousness attracted me."
But Tory security spokesman Patrick Mercer said any comparisons between Mr Reid and Churchill would be "risible".
"Winston Churchill was a man capable of inspiring words and decisive action.
"John Reid is a man composed entirely of hot air."