The Leadership And Leadership Style Of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was an extraordinary man, whose name is linked with all the most important events of his historical epoch, achieved unprecedented power and glory, struck his contemporaries’ imagination, and became the subject of the legends that surrounded his name with a halo of poetic grandeur. His undoubted leadership qualities and significant contribution to the development of French society at the edge of the 18th and 19th centuries, the formation of France as one of the most powerful countries in the world of that time still evoke interest and make him an example for modern leaders in the process of their education.

Personality of Napoleon Bonaparte and his achievements

Napoleon Bonaparte appears to be an extremely contradicting person. He was perceived primarily as the son of his time, which one could characterize as a turning point, a transition from the old feudal world to the new bourgeois society. He was the historical image that embodied all the contradictions of that time. His name was associated with immense ambition and despotic power, cruel and bloody wars, insatiable thirst for conquest, reminding the horrors of Zaragoza, the robbery of enslaved Germany, and the invasion of Russia. However, he was reminiscent of the talent, the boldness and the courage shown in the battles of Montaigne, Arkole, and Lodi (Biography 1).

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Napoleon Bonaparte, an outstanding French statesman, a brilliant military commander, an Emperor, was a native of Corsica. The French Revolution was met with great enthusiasm by Napoleon Bonaparte. He distinguished himself during the dispersal of the Parisian revolt of the royalists, after which he was appointed the commander of the Italian army of France. Under his leadership in 1796-1997 years, the Italian campaign demonstrated his general’s talent in all its glory and glorified him over the whole continent (Biography 1).

Napoleon was the statesman who inflicted the crushing blows to the old feudal and routine Europe. Bonaparte became the ruler on November 9, 1799, having committed a coup and dispersing with the help of his loyal troops and officers the Council of Five Hundreds (Biography 1). In France at this time, there was general dissatisfaction with the Directory, so it was not difficult for Bonaparte to do this. Napoleon’s internal policy presumed strengthening his personal power as a guarantee of preserving the results of the revolution: civil rights and land ownership rights of peasants as well as those who bought during the revolution national property (confiscated lands of emigrants and churches). The Civil Code (1804), which entered the history as the code of Napoleon, was to ensure all these gains. Napoleon implemented administrative reform establishing an institution accountable to the government of the prefects of the departments and sub-prefects of the districts (1800) (Biography 1). Mayors were appointed to the cities and the villages. A state-owned French bank was established to store gold reserves and paper money (1800); the system of tax collection was neutralized. Napoleon introduced the system of secondary schools, lyceums, and higher educational institutions. Normal and Polytechnic schools, still the most prestigious in France, were created. Being perfectly aware of the importance of influencing public opinion, Napoleon closed 160 of 173 Parisian newspapers, and the rest were placed under the control of the government (Biography 1). A powerful police force and an extensive secret service were created.



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When Napoleon came to power, his country was at war with England and Austria. Going into a new Italian campaign, his army triumphantly eliminated the threat to the borders of France (Biography 1). Moreover, as a result of military operations, almost all countries of Western Europe were subordinated to it. In those territories, which did not enter France, Napoleon created the kingdoms under his control making the members of the imperial family the rulers.

The first years in power, Napoleon was perceived by the population as the savior of the homeland and the man born of the revolution. His environment, in many respects, consisted of representatives of the lower social strata. Victories caused a feeling of pride for the nation and spiritual upsurge. However, the war, which lasted about 20 years, was pretty tiring for the French population. Besides, in 1810 the economic crisis started again (Biography 1).

The collapse of the empire began in 1812 when Russian troops defeated the Napoleon’s army. Then the anti-French coalition, which, in addition to Russia, included Prussia, Sweden and Austria, defeated the imperial army in 1814 and, having entered Paris, forced Napoleon I to abdicate (Biography 1). While retaining the title of Emperor, he was exiled to the small island Elbe in the Mediterranean Sea. Later in 1815, in a period of 100 days, Napoleon occurred in France again, which ended with the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815 and irrevocable defeat of Napoleon’s army. The deposed Emperor was sent to the Atlantic Ocean to the island of St. Elena, where he died (Biography 1).

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Bonaparte’s personal and shared values, which modeled his way

Napoleon was gifted from nature, having a mind that was highly positive, strictly calculating, alien to the hobbies, and little inclined to all sorts of speculations, which he mockingly called “ideology” (NHD 1). At the same time, his mind was of extraordinary creative power, combining, and rich in ideas, created by his ebullient imagination. However, his generational imagination was always fruitful but not unbridled, and capable of capturing beyond the limits of prudence. Napoleon considered the head as the first quality of a commander, that is, the ability not to believe the pictures imagined by him. In other words, he strongly considered avoiding obeying the imagination (Horn 1). His mind possessed extreme insight and a purely demonic ability to peer into the both enemy’s and his people souls and to unravel his spiritual powers and intentions. All this, with a quick assessment of the terrain, made the Napoleon in the eyes of his and enemy’s armies a sorcerer and infused with a superstitious horror to him. He had the gift of quick comprehending the whole chain of consequences and seeing the final and sometimes very remote results of the decision making. With the help of persistent labor and feverish lust for knowledge, Napoleon’s mind was enriched with information on a wide variety of industries (History 1). He could have them only due to his colossal memory.

Napoleon inherited from his mother a love for work and strict order (History 1). He was proud of his colossal efficiency more than all the other gifts, which the nature endowed to him. He kept working all time: during the dinner and the cultural events and being awoke up at night. Napoleon was extremely self-confident despite his small growth. He pondered and analyzed a lot that allowed him to be prepared for the events that were unexpected for the others. The will and the goal to conquer the world and change the society allowed him to win leadership positions in France, even during prolonged military operations outside the country (History 1). Truly, the leader with organizational capabilities can quickly and correctly assess the situation, identify prior tasks, distinguish between the feasible and fruitless projections, and calculate the timing of solving problems. The idea that the main distinguishing feature of a capable organizer is the ability to quickly find affective ways and means of solving problems has been confirmed by Bonaparte.

The inspiration of the common vision by Bonaparte

One of the foremost leadership skills is the inspiration of the shared vision. In March 1796, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had just been promoted as a general, received in Nice a half-starved and poorly equipped army under his command (NHD 1). Having received the order to attack the 70,000 army of Austria and Sardinia with 30 thousand soldiers, Bonaparte, in fact, was doomed to defeat. However, he demonstrated those exceptional qualities that later turned his name into a legend. Napoleon appealed to his army and promised that he would lead it through the most fertile valleys in the world, where large cities and richest provinces would open before his roots. There they would win their fame, honor, and riches. The impudent young general kept his word. He defeated the enemy having brilliantly spent 18 major battles. Thus, the combination of positive thinking and bringing people to the common goals and action proved to be extremely effective. Previously, the generals, who had never appreciated a young upstart, rose to his banner and found their place in history, having become marshals of the Great Army of the Emperor (NHD 1).

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Experimenting and taking risks by generating small wins and learning from mistakes

This leadership practice was probably one of the most difficult tasks for Napoleon as a leader (Horn 1). Undoubtedly, his victory and coming to power were the results of other, smaller military victories. However, Napoleon was able to identify and admit his mistakes only after he had finished political activities and analyzed his actions while writing his memoirs on the island of St. Helena. Perhaps, that was the reason why he could not occupy the position of a leader till the end of his days.

Bonaparte’s enabling others to act

The talent of leadership is based on a whole complex of socio-psychological qualities and properties (Horn 1). A great role here is played by the trust and the love of the masses for their leader. Trust is the recognition of high merits, authority, necessity, correctness and effectiveness of the leader’s actions. In case of Bonaparte and his people, the internal consonant with an authoritative personality and the willingness to act in accordance with his attitudes occurred. It is noteworthy that it was possible for Napoleon to force people to follow him in the absence of coercive means and only through trust. That meant that people were inwardly in agreement and united with their leader.

Napoleon said that “A leader is a dealer in hope” (Harvard Risk Management Corporation 2). Truly, giving people hope, he multiplied their confidence and inspired them with a sense of security. Thus, people followed a charismatic person, even in a zone of discomfort and deadly threat.

Bonaparte encouraged the hearts

Napoleon was perceived by the population as the savior of the motherland and the man born with the revolution (Horn 1). His coming to power and successfully fulfilled social reforms and military victories were associated by people with progress and victory over the old survivals, the power of Bourbons, innovation in the society, higher level of education and the transition from feudal order that together brought an undoubted improvement in the lives of the inhabitants of France. A strong idea of national prosperity united the French people. And in this, there is the undoubted merit of Napoleon as a leader.


Bonaparte became the ruler on November 9, 1799 having committed a coup and dispersed with the help of his loyal troops and officers the Council of Five Hundreds. His internal policy aimed for the all-round consolidation of personal power, which he called the guarantor of preserving revolutionary gains. He undertook a number of important reforms in the legal and administrative spheres. Many Napoleon’s innovations have formed the basis for the functioning of modern states and are still in force. Being a great leader, he encouraged his colossal efficiency, always worked, and was extremely self-confident, despite his small growth. He pondered and analyzed a lot that allowed him to be prepared for the events that seemed unexpected for the others. The will and the goal to conquer the world and change the society allowed him to win leadership positions in France, even during prolonged military operations outside the country. He foresaw the future and, imagining exciting and ennobling opportunities, allowed his people to act in favor of the prosperity of the French nation and encouraged their hearts.

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