Napoleon’s Six Winning Principles

Napoleon’s Six Winning Principles

NAPOLEON still manages to get a lot of press. In his book Napoleon on Project Management, Jerry Manus effectively develops practical lessons from the career of the French leader. At the core of his analysis are Napoleon’s Six Winning Principles. These principles are meant to serve as a compass and not as hard and fast rules. However, Manus notes that “these principles work together and feed off one another like interlocking gears. A lack of any one of them will impede success.” A chapter is devoted to each point, but here’s a quick summary:

Exactitude: awareness, research, and continuous planning

Speed: reducing resistance, increasing urgency, and providing focus

Flexibility: building teams that are adaptable, empowered, and unified

Simplicity: clear, simple objectives, messages, and processes

Character: integrity, calmness, and responsibility

Moral Force: providing order, purpose, recognition, and rewards

Manus writes that Napoleon’s downfall was that his success eventually led to his undoing. The principles that had brought him success began to unravel. He offers four critical warning signs that we need to watch for: power (self-righteousness), overzealousness (obsession), scarcity of effective leaders (disorder and mistrust), and an unbalanced lifestyle (leading to burn out and loss composure and health). The bottom line:

…if we adopt a compliance mentality as a result of our power, isolate ourselves from our leaders and subject-matter experts, and forget to involve our stakeholders in major decisions, we will turn around one day and there will be nobody behind us. And with nobody behind us, we can no longer call ourselves leaders.

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