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What Made Napoleon A Great Leader? | 5 BIG Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Napoleon

a painting of napoleon on a horse pointing and commanding his men

Everybody has heard about Napoleon Bonaparte, but why did he go down in history as one of history’s greatest men? Early in his life, he was judged for having an accent, but in ten years, he was a successful general who saved France from invasion. Here’s some leadership principles that made Napoleon great and that you can use to become a better leader today…

The 5 Biggest Leadership Lessons From Napoleon's Life

1. Never Give Up

In March 1814, Napoleon was ousted from power after the major powers of Europe allied to finally defeat France. In only a few months, Napoleon went from being the Emperor of France and Master of Europe to being exiled to an obscure island in the middle of the Mediterranean.

It looked like everything was over. Most people would fall from the top and learn their lesson. They’d give up. Napoleon didn’t.

While Napoleon was exiled, the king who replaced him became unpopular with the people. The people were calling for Napoleon to return. So Napoleon boarded a ship and landed on French soil on March 1, 1815.

a painting of napoleon returning from exile on elba and greeting his soldiers

Napoleon soon reunited with his former soldiers, and on his way to Paris, people shouted, "Vive l'Empereur!", or "Long Live the Emperor!" So one of the first lessons from Napoleon is to never give up. It's never over until it's over.

2. Don’t Let Others Define You

One of the most common beliefs about Napoleon is that he was short. He wasn’t, for his time. The idea that Napoleon was short mainly came from British propaganda. To help turn public opinion against Napoleon, a British cartoonist named James Gillray portrayed him as an angry, arrogant little person.

an illustration of james gillray's cartoon of napoleon

Napoleon said that Gillray "did more than all the armies of Europe to bring me down." His illustrations of Napoleon would be influential in shaping his image, but Napoleon didn’t let that stop him. Despite his image as a short, angry general, Napoleon accomplished great things.

3. Have Heros and Copy Them

Napoleon was invested in military life ever since he was a boy. When he was young, he learned all about Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar and aspired to be like them. Early on, he had heroes he wanted to become, and in many ways, he surpassed his heroes.

a painting of napoleon looking at the sphinx in egypt during the battle of the pyramids on his egyptian expedition

Having someone to look up to and model your life after is important to being successful. Choose people you want to become more like. Maybe you like that they’re a good cook, have a happy lifestyle, or simply have tons of money. Whatever it is, find out why they have what they have and start living it out.

4. Nothing is Impossible

One of Napoleon’s famous quotes was, "Impossible is a word only to be found in the dictionary of fools." On multiple occasions, Napoleon accomplished the impossible, especially early in his career.

After putting down an insurrection, Napoleon was given command of the Army of Italy. At the time, France was at war with most of Europe, and the Army of Italy was meant to be a distraction while the two bigger armies attacked France’s enemies.

The army was ill-equipped, starving, and unprepared for war. However, Napoleon led them to victory and single-handedly knocked Austria out of the war.

a painting of a young napoleon carrying the flag and leading his men to victory

While this was going on, the main, larger armies were unable to make any advances. Because of his success, Napoleon was catapulted into the spotlight and eventually became the great leader we remember today…

5. Make Your Mark on The World

It’s not an overstatement to say that Napoleon left a massive impact on the world. He left behind a changed France and a completely different Europe. He was influential in spreading revolutionary ideas to other countries, and his law code (the Napoleonic Code) was the basis on which many countries based their own laws.

jacques louis david painting of napoleon crossing the alps on his white horse

There are many other impacts Napoleon had, but at the end of the day, How Have You Impacted the World?

What Made Napoleon A Great Leader?

What made Napoleon the great leader we know today? Why was he able to defeat Europe's armies and lead his men into battles that seemed impossible? Napoleon was a great leader because...

  • He Never Gave Up

  • He Didn't Let Others Define Him

  • He Had Heros He Copied

  • He Believed Nothing Was Impossible

  • He Made His Mark On The World

5 leaderships lessons from napoleon infographic


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