Yesterday, I attended a talk on Napoleon by the British Historian Andrew Roberts at the School of Life BusinessWise conference. Napoleon of course is known to some as one of great military commanders in history. But this time, Andrew Roberts instead focused on his broader leadership style and character. This is what I took away from the talk:
Napoleon had trained his mind to compartmentlise extremely well. So the night before a major battle he was writing the constitution to a Paris school, before switching back to battle planning. Needless to say, he performed well in crisis. He had an incredible attention to detail and never stayed in ivory towers: he would ensure he knew everything from what boots his troops wore to which officers were pulling their weight. He was very inquisitive, always asking questions, not afraid to show ignorance, and kept abreast of the latest inventions.
He worked very hard – averaging fifteen hour days. He was extremely efficient with time – rarely allowing idle time to pass wasted. When he bathed or shaved, he would have someone read the newspaper to him. He never spent more than 20 minutes on meals; he diluted his drink to ensure he never got drunk. He catered to his troops needs, ensuring that each was asked about his well being by officers. He praised those that did well, and promoted on merit, rather than kin. As a result, he commanded vast loyalty. That said, he didn’t always win battles, as I’m constantly reminded on my daily commute to Waterloo!