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35. Napoleon , Fearless Emperor of Europe - Leadership Lessons from his Life

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Who was Napolean ?

Its a stunning story of Boy from Corsica Province in Italy with moderate background can rose to the Legendary Military Commander in Human History. His story, his Strategies and Tactics, Technqiues and Methods of batllefield are taught and re-taught across All the Military Academies in the world.

In the short span of around 20 Years or little more, Napoleon Bonaparte became Emperor of the French and then, Emperor of the Europe, united the most lands of Europe since the fall of Roman Empire, which never happened again till now.

Lets walk into the life of a legend, who shown to the world that, an ordinary person with humble beginings can become Great Achiever with killer insticnt, dedication, concentration, ingenuity and hardwork and shown the way to rest of the world to follow and emulate.

Napoleonic Code has influenced the legal systems of more than 70 nations around the world.

1) The Story

Napoleon Bonaparte ( 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars.

He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest Military commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. He was the second of eight surviving children born to Carlo Buonaparte (1746-1785), a lawyer, and Letizia Romalino Buonaparte (1750-1836). Although his parents were members of the minor Corsican nobility, the family was not wealthy. The year before Napoleon’s birth, France acquired Corsica from the city-state of Genoa, Italy. Napoleon later adopted a French spelling of his last name.

As a boy, Napoleon attended school in mainland France, where he learned the French language, and went on to graduate from a French military academy in 1785. He then became a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment of the French army.

He was serving as an artillery officer in the French army when the French Revolution erupted in 1789. He rapidly rose through the ranks of the military, seizing the new opportunities presented by the Revolution and becoming a general at age 24. TheFrench Directoryeventually gave him command of theArmy of Italy after he suppressed the Vendémiairev revolt against the government from royalist insurgents. At age 26, he began his first military campaign against the Austrians and the Italian monarchs aligned with the Habsburgs—winning virtually every battle, conquering the Italian Peninsula in a year while establishing "sister republics" with local support, and becoming a war hero in France.

In 1798, he led a military expedition to Egypt that served as a springboard to political power. He orchestrated a coup in November 1799 and became First Consul of the Republic. After the Peace of Amiens in 1802, Napoleon turned his attention to France's colonies. He sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States,

Nopolean conducted several Wars against various European countries, In 1813, Prussia and Austria joined Russian forces in the War of the Sixth Coalition against France. A lengthy military campaign culminated in a large Allied army defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzigin October 1813, but his tactical victory at the minor Battle of Hanau allowed retreat onto French soil. The Allies then invaded France and captured Paris in the spring of 1814, forcing Napoleon to abdicate in April.

He was exiled to the island of Elba off the coast of Tuscany, and the Bourbon dynasty was restored to power. Napoleon escaped from Elba in February 1815 and took control of France once again. The Allies responded by forming a Seventh Coalition which defeated him at the Battle of Waterloo in June. The British exiled him to the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, where he died six years later at the age of 51.

2) French Empire

During the Consulate, Napoleon faced several royalist and Jacobin assassination plots, In January 1804, his police uncovered an assassination plot against him that involved Moreau and which was ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbon family, the former rulers of France. On the advice of Talleyrand, Napoleon ordered the kidnapping of the Duke of Enghien, violating the sovereignty of Baden. The Duke was quickly executed after a secret military trial, even though he had not been involved in the plot. Enghien's execution infuriated royal courts throughout Europe, becoming one of the contributing political factors for the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars.

To expand his power, Napoleon used these assassination plots to justify the creation of an imperial system based on the Roman model. He believed that a Bourbon restoration would be more difficult if his family's succession was entrenched in the constitution.

Launching yet another referendum, Napoleon was elected as Emperor of the French by a tally exceeding 99%. As with the Life Consulate two years earlier, this referendum produced heavy participation, bringing out almost 3.6 million voters to the polls.

A keen observer of Bonaparte's rise to absolute power, Madame de Rémusat, explains that "men worn out by the turmoil of the Revolution […] looked for the domination of an able ruler" and that "people believed quite sincerely that Bonaparte, whether as consul or emperor, would exert his authority and save [them] from the perils of anarchy."

4) Impact

Napoleon's influence on the modern world brought liberal reforms to the numerous territories that he conquered and controlled, such as the Low Countries,Switzerland, and large parts of modern Italy and Germany. He implemented fundamental liberal policies in France and throughout Western Europe.

His Napoleonic Code has influenced the legal systems of more than 70 nations around the world.

British historian Andrew Roberts states: "The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon.

To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire.

5) Leadership Lessons from Napoleon

The leadership skills and principles he had exhibited are applicable even in business, which is, incidentally, often similar to a war or a battle. A good leader, be it of a fleet of warriors, military troops, or a corporate team, all follow the same fundamentals, and most of them can be learned from Napoleon Bonaparte.

Lesson 1: Be Ambitious

Do not be satisfied with “just enough”, when you can have the “most”. Do not settle for “just all right”, when you can be the “best”. Aim high.

Lesson 2: Be where you are needed, and lead you people there

Being present is already expected from a leader; but being present where you are needed is more important. Napoleon had many people with large amounts of abilities. He knew where to spot opportunities where his people’s skills and abilities will be put to use, and that is where he took them. The battlefield was his domain, and that was where you will find him, alongside and in front of his men.

Napoleon was a very effective motivator. War time is definitely not a time for upbeat spirits, but with several speeches, he was able to revive the fighting spirit of men .

Lesson 3: Be the first to do

Being a leader means having the willingness to get your hands dirty. For Napoleon, no job was beneath him. He participated in the work of those that he led. This ensured that he was kept aware of what goes on in the lower ranks even when he was already up there.

Being hands-on is something that employees are bound to appreciate from their leader. It tells a lot about the character of a leader when he attempts to work side by side with the people he leads. It is easier for both sides to connect and collaborate, and therefore finish the task at hand effectively and efficiently.

Lesson 4: Walk the Talk

Empty promises are not what you would hear from a good leader. Giving false hopes, on the other hand, is the same thing.

Napoleon advocated delivering on what has been promised and by this was great at expectation management. This effectively inspired confidence and trust in his people, so they were willing to follow him wherever he led.

It is important for your people – and for everyone else – to see your sincerity as a leader, and by choosing your words carefully, you can show that you mean business.

Lesson 5: Team Work, Works

There is a general misconception that a leader must be able to do everything alone. That certainly defeats the purpose of leading a group. You need help? Then ask for it.

He needed help from others, and he was not above lowering himself and doing things for others in order to ask for it. In the end, he was able to accomplish what he set out to do.

There is one other thing that Napoleon made a point of, particularly after getting help from others: he thanked them. Whether it was through saying the words out loud, paying his soldiers with gold and silver that he has obtained, pinning medal on their dress and he always credited them for their success. Then it’s mainly a give-and-take relationship, so saying thank you is not really all that important.

You should give credit to where, when, and to whom it is due. The modern leader who wants to follow Napoleon’s example should set up an appreciation and reward system in place. This is a very positive way to boost their morale and motivate them to do better.

Lesson 6: Travel Road less traveled and leave trail

As a leader, you have to set yourself apart from your people and dare to travel road less travelled and leave path to people to emulate.

Doing things differently. Breaking conventions and defying expectations was something that Napoleon did during his time. That’s what made him such a brilliant strategist, because he was not afraid to try something different, something new.

Napoleon refused to stick to what was the norm, even in the way he and his men fought. As long as he saw an advantageous position for his troops, he seized it. He came up with tricks on battle formations that even bewildered his generals, but they turned out to be excellent moves, as evidenced by his victory during the Battle of the Pyramids in Egypt, when his 20,000-strong French army systematically defeated the Mamluk warriors, who had 60,000 men.

Doing the impossible.

Napoleon was seen as braver than most people, going where others would not dare, doing what others deemed impossible.

Lesson 7: Command the Respect, but not Demand

Respect asks for respect. It is something that is earned, yes, even by leaders. Napoleon was able to command the respect of his soldiers by showing that he, too, had respect for them and their abilities and contributions. It did not even matter that it was the lowest-ranked foot soldier, Napoleon respected them as human beings and part of the troops, and not solely for their position in the hierarchy.

Napoleon was able to build an unstoppable army, mainly because of the devotion and loyalty that he was able to instill in his soldiers.

  • Know your people and understand them. This is also another way of showing that you respect your people: get to know them and understand how they feel. Napoleon also took this as an opportunity to predict outcomes, especially when faced with unexpected circumstances or situations. Planning and strategizing became easier because Napoleon knew his people, so he knew where to put resources in the field.

  • Do not silence your people. Let them speak their minds and say their peace and really listen to what they say. Get their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Putting restrictions or limitations on them will also potentially be limiting to your effectiveness as a leader, and of your group’s goals.

  • Trust your people. This is probably one of the hardest things for a leader (for anyone, really) to do but, by trusting your people. In the Battle of the Pyramids, for example, Napoleon trusted that his men will come through, despite being outnumbered. In return, his men trusted him to come up with a strategy for them to survive and beat the enemies.

By looking at another person straight in their eye, you are acknowledging their existence and showing that you are listening to what they have to say. It also serves as one way to gauge the person you are talking to.

Sizing up a rival or an enemy will be easier when you look into their eyes, since it has been said all too often that the eyes are the windows of one’s soul. You can tell a lot about a person by watching how their eyes move, shift, or react.

Lesson 8: Be Temparament

More often than not, we are our own worst enemy, and anger is not going to help any. Anger is one sure way to cloud one’s judgment and, as a good leader, you are not supposed to let go of the clarity of your judgment.

By managing his anger, Napoleon was able to keep his emotions in check and keep a clear head on the battlefield, where every decision – even the smallest one – could make the difference between life and death.

  • Do not speak in anger.

  • Do not make decisions when you are feeling emotional.

Lesson 9: Respect the Time

Napoleon showed great efficiency in managing time and becoming an excellent organizer. This was also apparent in how Napoleon was known to focus on the key issues at hand. With so many issues to sort through, he knew which points to pay attention to, and which ones can be ignored or left for another day.

You often hear businessmen say that “time is money”, and there is a lot of truth to this. Time wasted means money wasted in business, which is why business leaders should make sure they manage their time well.

Lesson 10: Never stop learning

A leader should never feel and act like he knows everything and, thus, no longer sees the need to learn anything more. There is always, something new to learn.

Napoleon never stopped seeking to improve himself by acquiring knowledge and learning whatever could be learned, which he then used in his future endeavors. Even as a young boy, he read a lot, focusing on the Classics, particularly those of notable leaders in history such as Alexander the Great.

In the formulation of the Napoleonic Code, Napoleon entrusted the task to equally brilliant individuals, but he still joined the lengthy meetings, astounding everyone with his amazing grasp of all the relevant details. This is proof that, even at the height of his power as a leader, he never stopped learning.

Leaders in business have to be aware of a lot of things, even beyond the scope of the industry that they are in. This is not just a way to widen their horizons, but to also keep their minds alert and sharp, to make it easier for them to spot opportunities once they arise.


As John Putman , Senior Writer of National Geographic ( Feb 1982 ) put it " Like No Man since Ceasar, Napolean held the reigns of power over most of the Europe for more than a decade. A Leader of Iron will and far-ranging intellect, he could recall campign details and soldiers records for years. And he could muster energy to work 20-hour days, dictating four secretaries at once "

and he also put it this way

" In his remarkable life, Napoleon had lead two million Frenchmen and one million troops from allied or satelite states into 60 battles that claimed between 450,000 and 1,750,000 casualties. By shaking the foundations of Europe's old Order, he instilled in the French a lasting sense of " la gloire" ".

He became a epitome of what leadership is to the rest of the world. . He was fearless in the battlefield, and had enough charisma to draw people in with his words and build formbidable army and conquered the most the Western Europe.

He almost became a synonymous to the word, Leader and he will be inspiring many generations of leaders of all spectrums of life in future including Politics, Military and Business and many more fields.

His legend lives on forever in Human History...

MM Rao


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