By Ana Margarita Olar | Executivechronicles.com

Our history is lined with great and failed leaders alike. Some become a hero of their country, and others leave a scar in mankind.

But few people realize is that great leaders and failed leaders are one and the same person. An example of this great and also failed leadership was that of Napoleon’s. He was undoubtedly a great military tactician. But despite previous success, his leadership had also many flaws which eventually led to his downfall.

Here are some of Napoleon’s leadership mistakes we can learn from:

1. Failure to hold temperament.

Napoleon had a bad temper. When things do not go exactly as he planned, or when it seems that his subordinates do not take necessary actions, he would have temper outbursts. He would throw a drama to impose fear and respect from his men. But such hysterias made Napoleon look weak, hot-headed and unrespectable.

Leadership Lesson: Control your temper even in most trying situations. Temper outbursts do not solve the problem and may add further insult to the injury. Remember, hurting words and abusive actions are like an arrow, once it is shot, you can never take it back.


2. Failure to Have Perseverance and Patience.

Napoleon’s impulsiveness brought about his instant success. But little by little, it also led to his downfall. “Bonaparte lacked the temperament to fight a defensive battle, let alone a defensive campaign,” writes Johnson.

Leadership Lesson: Be able to discern on every situation. Learn when it is needed to take offensive action or when it is needed to keep calm and plan your defence.

3. Failure to Adapt to Changes.

Napoleon is known to be one of the first tacticians to make lightning military attacks, striking fear on the hearts of his opponents by bombarding them with cannons because he believes that loud noises overwhelm his opponents. He was capable of making on the ground decisions even without higher orders.

As far and advanced military were introduced, he never cared to learn about the naval weapon, steam power, and other innovations. Napoleon never bothered to think about France’s large land holding in America. He feared to cross the Atlantic and instead of finding a use for the vast territory, he sold it.

Leadership Lessons: A leader must be dynamic, always innovating, always finding ways to adapt to an ever-changing situation or environment.

4. Failure to Practice and train.

Napoleon selected 50,000 men to serve in his elite, Old Guard. They were tall, strong, and originally skilful soldiers. But when Napoleon’s regular troops always won the battles, these Old Guards just stand behind the main force, and eventually failing to exercise their combat skills. So when Napoleon finally needed to call on the Old Guard during the battle of Waterloo they were weak, unused to fighting and underprepared.

Leadership Lessons: Employees should regularly attend training and seminars to enhance their knowledge and capabilities regarding their area of expertise so that they won’t become “stagnant employees”.

5. Failure to delegate.

Napoleon’s subordinates could only perform well if under strict supervision and when only told step by step on what to do. So when Napoleon’s generals had to think on their own or perform without Napoleon’s instruction, they were often incompetent and lack confidence.

Leadership Lesson: A leader must learn to boost the confidence of his subordinates, by assigning them simple tasks, and praising them if the job is well done.