In order to begin to understand the significance of leadership, I believe that one must first ask “What does it take to be a successful leader? ” According to one text, a successful leader must “intend to create real changes and outcomes that reflect their purpose. ” (Leadership Experience, Daft, pg 5). 17th century ruler Napoleon Bonaparte had a clarified purpose of what he intended to accomplish, and he strategically devised many ways to create changes and outcomes to achieve that purpose. Napoleon’s ultimate goal was to conquer and govern the central mainland of Europe.
Bonaparte employed his leadership traits of strategy/vision, decision making, and adaptability to pursue and accomplish his goals in both his military exploits and management of civil matters requiring order and stability. Through these talents he was able to experience success throughout his career as a general and later on as an emperor, and politician. Napoleon’s leadership skills were great in both depth and variety, but two of the main qualities that helped him to excel as a leader were his abilities to strategize and his management skills.
Napoleon efficiently planned and directed his soldiers, resources, and time during his military battles. For example in the Battle of Arcole, Napoleon was elected to lead a young, inexperienced group of soldiers with low rations against a larger, more experienced Austrian army. Napoleon was initially at a disadvantage, with considerably fewer resources to work with then his opponents. However, Napoleon used his strategic management skills to divide his men into three separate groups who each performed a task consisting of distracting the enemy, building a bridge, or ambushing the enemy at night.
Through his efficient manner of planning and management, Napoleon was able to produce a victory with very little resources. Similar to a modern day financial planner of a company, Napoleon had to utilize the resources he was given to gain a desired result. As a leader, this is important as one must know how to perform proper management: (attaining organizational goals efficiently by planning, organizing, staffing and directing organizational resources) even in dire situations. Another leadership trait that contributed to Napoleon’s success was his decision making ability.
In the War of the Third Coalition, the French and British navies battled each other fervently. Many of the French Generals had tried to invade the British troops with a direct attack to their main bases of Toulon and Brest. However, Napoleon knew that the British navy was larger than his so he would have to be clever about his actions. Although once again outnumbered, Napoleon went against the actions and advice of other French generals and ordered his army to secretly march to Germany and use a turning movement: attacking the rival army from the rear position rather than head on which they were likely expecting since the others had done so.
He also decided to attack Ulm which was their primary base of communication rather than attacking the main bases. Napoleon’s decision to attack Ulm proved to be wise as the French caught the British unprepared. It was the key battle that turned the momentum of the war in the French navy’s favor. Although praised afterwards for his efforts, Napoleon had to employ both optimism and self confidence, two critical characteristics related to effective decision making. Before his battle, he had seen many of his fellow generals and soldiers fail to win, with many getting wounded and dying in the process.
However, he focused on the potential opportunities he saw whereas his comrades only saw problems and used that to his advantage. Napoleon also had to demonstrate self confidence during the war as many of his fellow generals advised him to not employ his strategy. However , Napoleon’s assurance in his own judgments and capabilities allowed him to go against their advice and produce a favorable outcome. Generally, when a leader displays such self confidence and optimism in his/her decision making as Napoleon did, it has a positive effect upon the followers and subordinates of any organization as they are instilled with motivation.
Even though he was primarily an autocratic leader who confided mostly in his own personal position of power, Napoleon’s decision making likely increased morale among his soldiers by creating confidence and admiration for him as a general/leader. Napoleon’s ability to adapt to different situations greatly contributed to his accomplishments as a leader on the battlefield. In many battles Napoleon’s original plans did not go the way he wanted or believed they would, causing him to have to react quickly and with flexibility. For xample, even though Napoleon won both the Battle of Arcole and the Battle of Ulm, he suffered unexpected hardships which he had to overcome such as the loss of rations, enemy ambushes, and unexpected retreats of his own units. Napoleon’s ability to embrace these changes and think of a way around them, rather than panicking allowed him to be victorious at the conclusion of these battles. One reason for Napoleon’s great ability to adapt may have been his emotional stability. When leaders are stable emotionally they are able to handle mistakes and stress with composure.
When Napoleon lost a battle, he may have taken it personally but he also was able to direct his focus to the next objective in a calm efficient manner. Napoleon had developed a reputation for his leadership ability in the military field, however he also used his leadership traits to be surprisingly successful as an emperor as well. One of the reasons he likely experienced success as an emperor after he resigned from his career as a general is that he was able to transfer the same skills and traits he used in battle over to the world of politics.
For example, he used his ability for strategic vision to help to make France more industrialized. In order to do this he carefully planned his agenda in steps. First, he rebuilt the roads and sewer systems in many areas, then he instituted higher education with post secondary schools and vocational schools, and finally he instituted the “Napoleonic Code” which was a series of civil laws used to govern the people of France. Throughout the process of creating the Napoleonic Code, Napoleon used independent thinking and mindfulness.
Napoleon interpreted events according to his own beliefs rather than other peoples beliefs and the pre-established rules of that time. He also used mindfulness to reevaluate the ways he had learned to do things in order to decide whether or not to institute them in his code. For example, Napoleon believed in a sense of mercy to a certain degree, so he instituted in his laws that citizens charged with a felony under Napoleonic law would be allowed a lawyer, and if they were too poor to afford one they would be given one or given the choice to represent them self in their court hearing.
Napoleon’s decision making ability helped him in his role as an emperor. There were situations in which Napoleon had to make decisions that would affect the French government and its citizens. For example, when small revolts and uprisings were becoming frequent during his reign, Napoleon had to make a decision on whether or not to punish the French people with taxes or to give them incentive to behave morally. Rather than punishing the entire community of people by increasing taxes or prices on goods and services, Napoleon instituted a series of incentive laden rewards that caused the revolts to cease.
Napoleon’s ability to make this more peaceful decision rather than attempting to solve the problem with possible bloodshed demonstrated that he was able to act in a position of moral leadership. He sought the just and honest practice of giving people incentives for rewards rather than resulting to the unethical practice of hunting down and killing citizens rumored to be involved in the revolts. Napoleon’s adaptability to different situations and change assisted him as a ruler and emperor in that he was able to make gains out of potential losses.
For example, when he was defeated by the revolt in Santa Domingue led by Haitian general Toussaint Louverture, he had to find a way to create revenue which he had spent in fighting the war in Haiti. He also had to worry about a potential war with Great Britain who threatened to attack and conquer the territory he ruled. He realized that he could solve both of his problems by selling his French possession on the mainland of North America (Louisiana) to the United States in what would later be known as the Louisiana Purchase.
By selling Louisiana to the United States, he was able to accomplish two goals. First, he was able to gain money through selling Louisiana to the United States. Second, he was able to make a profit and avoid potentially losing Louisiana to Great Britain and making no profit at all. This was yet another situation in which Napoleon was faced with an original outcome that was not going the way he planned, yet he found a way to overcome it by adapting to the situation and finding a way around it to benefit him.
Napoleon’s leadership traits of decision making, strategic vision and adaptability allowed him to be successful in every position in which leadership was required. As a result he experienced success in both his primary leadership roles as a military general and as emperor of France. When leadership is able to be demonstrated in a variety of roles rather than in one single role, it supports the argument that there must be certain desirable and unique traits that give an individual what is necessary to be a leader, regardless of the circumstances.