Adolf Hitler’s leadership style cannot be narrowed down to one. While he was a dictator who adopted a commanding style that sought tight control even if it created dissension among his army of generals, he also showed an uncanny ability to sense people’s inner workings and concerns.
This worked to his advantage and added to the compelling nature of his personality which stirred his followers to support and be loyal to him. A pedantic military strategist who attacked his enemies and even his own allies from within, Adolf Hitler was one who exhausted all means, notably violence and mass extermination of races, to further his goals.
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For him, the all-consuming end of expanding and transforming Germany into a world power clouded his vision of other matters which he deemed inferior. That Hitler was fanatical in a viciously evil kind of way does not diminish the fact that he was a great strategist and leader who left an indelible imprint on other world leaders.
The way he formed alliances, his unstoppable will to conquer and reinforce his logistics and methods for waging war, and the unrelenting spirit he displayed even when defeat was imminent all point to how tenacious Hitler was in overcoming obstacles to his overarching goal of world domination.
Yet despite his sharp memory, keen attention for detail, and strong leadership traits, Adolf Hitler did have some weaknesses, notably an impatience for individuals with weak or retreating, unfocused character, and some rash decision-making.
“He presents himself to the viewer with considerable dignity and complacency… But this respectability overlaid an obviously unstable temperament marked by a propensity for impulsive decisions” (Fest, 1974, p. 16).
Nonetheless, he displayed a singlehanded focus revolving around an expansionist subjugation of other nations to assert Germany’s dominance, and he manifested a consistent unbending policy of warfare towards attaining this end. In the end, this may have been a major factor that led to his eventual downfall. Indeed, despite his all-consuming thirst for absolute power and personal flaws and oversights, no other great leader has perhaps shaped world history in a colossal manner the way Adolf Hitler did.
Mission & Vision Statements
Adolf Hitler’s mission statement was to establish allies, fortify his troops and launch an all-out offensive against those who would get in his way of shaping the destiny of Germany – by propelling it to great stature and letting it emerge as a world power.
The vision statement was to command obedience and unwavering loyalty and support from followers and the entire citizenry because only Adolf Hitler could handle Germany’s unique problems. The citizenry was called upon to take a stand in the transformation of a new nation.
Hitler prevailed upon the masses, who were swayed by his eloquent speech and charismatic leadership, and impressed on them that he was the answer to Germany’s socio-economic ills and that he wielded the power to reunite Germany and make it rise above its impoverished state.
The main issue of this leadership case study is that notwithstanding his despotic character, Adolf Hitler was a skillful and compelling leader who moved the masses.
He honed his political decision-making process with such impetus that it “laid the foundation for World War II” (Braunbeck, 1997, p. 5). Though he advocated a fierce and inhuman kind of nationalism, he evoked an unyielding stance and a resolute view to achieve his goal.
He totally believed that “only he had the vision, the will-power, the combination of military and political, political and `world-historical’ insight… to restore the lost German empire to her greatness” (Braunbeck, 1997, p. 9).
In the early 1930s, the era when Adolf Hitler rose to power as Chancellor of Germany, the German empire was saddled with socio-economic problems and the political machinery was on the brink of chaos. The situation clearly called for a leader with an iron fist, but then “President von Hindendburg stubbornly resisted offering the chancellorship to Adolf Hitler, a volatile political upstart whose followers were considered… coarse, violent and undisciplined” (“Hartwick Classic Leadership Cases,” 2001, p. 1).
The ensuing events illustrated that even if the odds were not in his favor, Hitler had utilized every means and power, including political conspiracy, to ascend to the highest office. The circumstances he figured in and the way he used these to his advantage ensured that he remained his in much sought-after position. As noted in the Hartwick Leadership Cases:
By the late thirties, Hitler was the commanding figure in Europe, possibly the most powerful political figure in the world. The renewal of full employment in Germany subdued domestic opposition to Nazism... Hitler was, quintessentially, a charismatic leader. He inspired awe, devotion, loyalty, and obedience in an ever-increasing portion of the German population” (2001, p. 2).
It will be noted that one of Adolf Hitler’s self-confessed capabilities which helped him accomplish his ends “was the ability to judge men… what sort, how he could best be used” (Schramm, 2007, p. 32). He also rode with the prevailing public outlook and opinions. Hitler harnessed the “awesome power he achieved over the German people…to attain his political goals” (Braunbeck, 1997, p. 6).
The events in Germany during the period he ascended to the highest office, his way with people, and the personal magnetism he inspired among the masses whose gripes and sentiments he played on all worked together to set the stage for a leadership that thrived with terrorism and a well-oiled propagandist machinery, on one hand, and a “feeling for order, rules and respectability” (Fest, 1974, p. 14) on the other.
One of Adolf Hitler’s major strengths was “his uncanny ability to appeal to the subconscious and irrational needs of his audience and (ability) to solicit the desired response” (Braunbeck, 1997, p. 7).
By audience we may refer not just to the masses who listened to him speak with conviction and fervor but to the generals and other members of his troops. Hitler displayed strong oratorical skills that greatly helped him win favor with the masses. At the same time, his speeches reflected his racial ideologies, like when he expressed in one instance:
We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions (Toland, 1976, p. 306).
During trying circumstances, his perseverance worked to his advantage too, although there came a point when his all-out offensives to conquer turned out futile.
As a military strategist, Hitler displayed that he can be quite knowledgeable. “However, as his success continued to mount, he became more and more involved in the intricacies of battlefield tactics and strategy” (Braunbeck, 1997, p. 5) but tended to be over focused on the caliber of a weapon, technical capacity and speed of warships, and what may be expected of fortification lines.
That Hitler has a flawed personality is something just about everyone acknowledged. History recounts how Adolf Hitler was given to angry outbursts and uncontrolled rage, especially when he felt that people questioned his authority. He restricted, rather than provided, the freedom of subordinate commanders to rely on their own judgment when a sudden crisis occurred. He had to have a say on the matter.
As far as his early experience in running state matters was concerned, Hitler displayed “complete unfamiliarity with the daily workings of government” (Schramm, 2007, p. 57).
As a commanding leader in the battlefield, Hitler adopted a rigid stance. For him, his “troops should never be given occasion for uncertainty by offering them the option to retreat” (Schramm, 2007, p. 108).
Hitler was unbending in his ways, and insisted on doing things his way to the point of not consulting his generals, and in the process he made some blunders, like mounting an offensive against countries that were stronger than Germany.
Hitler is a clear-cut illustration of a study in contrast, because while he relentlessly sought to cultivate allies from other countries and acquiesced to harmonizing relations with powerful countries like the US, he was too devious and consumed with desire to conquer that he strained such international relations.
Hitler wielded great power and accomplished one of the things he aspired for Germany – lebensraum or more living space, using the opportunities for learning and politicking that being in power presented.
Hitler had vast opportunities to shape a nation’s destiny and bequeath a lasting legacy, but his thirst for power so consumed him that it led to his ultimate downfall, leaving behind no contribution in the material or moral sense.
Being a master manipulator, he was able to gain concessions from ranking officials of powerful countries and he scored some diplomatic victories, but he himself negated any headway he made in this aspect. In short, Hitler wasted many opportunities that came his way, with the exemption of the opportunities that brought him to power.
Hitler encountered opposition within and outside the totalitarian state he established that were potential threats to his reign but their divisiveness did not create any real impediment.
In the arena of international politics, there were countries that refused to have an alliance with Germany, thereby posing a threat to the actualization of his expansionist goals. Hitler also encountered some other challenges. Economic problems became widely felt in Germany in the late 1930s, prompting Hitler forced to order, albeit hesitatingly, major defense cuts.
On hindsight, Adolf Hitler, deranged as he may be, had actually let many opportunities and alternatives to running Germany in a way that many generations down the line would have been able to acknowledge with pride, pass him by.
“Throughout his entire life, and particularly since the First World War, Hitler was dominated by a strong feeling of comradeship, loyalty and gratitude with the men who…had been faithful and devoted comrades” (Schramm, 2007, p. 33) and he inspired confidence in his men even when the situation turned hopeless.
He could have utilized people faith in his abilities to further rebuild Germany and leave behind something lasting. Instead, what he left was an imprint of a leader who was like no other.
Braunbeck Jr., P. (1997). A military leadership analysis of Adolf Hitler. Thesis. Air Command and Staff College. Retrieved November 30, from http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/acsc/97-0609h.pdf.
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