A short time ago, I found the „Eleven Secrets of Leadership“ as formulated by Napoleon Hill (1883 to 1970) on the internet:

  1. Unshakeable self-confidence
    It is based on objective self-estimation and precise knowledge of your own professional expertise. Nobody will be prepared to follow orders given by someone who lacks self-confidence and courage.
  2. Self-discipline
    If you have no discipline over yourself, you cannot expect discipline from others. Self-control and self-discipline create trust and motivate the clever employee to imitate the boss.
  3. Sense of justice
    No leader will be able to gain and maintain  the respect of his subordinates unless he has a strong sense of fairness and justice.
  4. Consistency
    If you doubt your own decisions and keep changing your mind, you just show that you are not sure of yourself. Consequently, you cannot lead others toward success.
  5. Thoughtful behaviour
    A successful leader plans before acting and acts according to his plans. Someone who just blindly leaves everything to chance and his „intuition“, acting without thoroughly thought-through plans is like a ship without a rudder.
  6. Being used to always surpassing expectations
    A true leader always demands more from himself than from others.
  7. Reliability
    People who are slovenly, careless, forgetful or otherwise unreliable will never be successful leaders. After all, the aforementioned characteristics will make it impossible for others to admire  them  and follow their orders.
  8. Sensitivity and understanding
    Being able to imagine how your own employees feel is very important. You should always understand their point of view, their wishes and their fears. A good leader always has to show he understands the people he is superior to, along with  their problems.
  9. An eye for detail
    If you want to be a success as a leader, you also have to be knowledgable on all the seemingly unimportant details of the work process – and you have to notice them.
  10. Being prepared to take responsibility
    A good leader does not only – as a matter of course – take responsibility for his own decisions. He will also always be prepared to accept the consequences of mistakes and forgetfulness among his own employees. The superior person is reaponsible if  people he is in charge of have not done their job well.
  11. Co-operation
    Successful leaders have to know and nurture co-operation. That means they must be able to motivate their team. After all, leadership is based on power, and power is based on the full support of the “people”.

Source: Napoleon Hill: Think Hard and Become Rich. The 13 Rule You Want to Follow in Order to be a Success. Ariston Verlag, 1966/2010.

Some way or other, it seems that, at first sight, nothing wrong is written in this list. In fact, it seems like a lot of it goes without saying. It makes sense and sounds plausible. Personally, I find it very nice to read something like an eye for detail (thesis number 9) on the list.

However, after taking a closer look, I suddenly start getting thoughtful.

I cannot think of a single leader who even comes close to what Napoleon Hill requires of a leader. Well, that makes sense, too, doesn’t it? After all, even the first item on the list wants something superhuman. Who among us can honestly say he is full of self-confidence based on objective self-evaluation? You would probably have to suffer from psychological disorder or distorted awareness. I conclude that the human being portrayed by Hill cannot really exist.

And then my thoughtfulness turns into real scepticism. Didn’t we and our fathers love and literally swollow whole the entire “hero literature” of the 19th and 20th century? Entire generations found their way out of depressions when reading about Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, who were the protagonists portraying ideal heroism invented by Karl May.

They were creatures without fear and evil, full of endless loyalty, with an absolutely infallible sense of justice, always on the move as humane helpers. Where it was necessary, however, they could also show ruthless steeliness. And, of course, they looked absolutely noble with ideal physical characteristics and enormous competence. They spoke any number of languages and dialects, had extremely well-trained senses and an astute mind.

Their technological perfection was surpreme in all martial arts. They could do without sleep or food for a long time and were prepared to endure any pain and torture imaginable without even blinking an eye. And once in a while, they also had super-natural abilities. But they also had a soft spot and a good sentimentality. Above all, they would normally escape from even the most desperate situation. They were superior, competent and noble.

In literature, Winnetou and Old Shatterhand were no exceptions. An entire genre of war, adventur and freedom literature seduced humans with this kind of nonsense. The superhuman as messianic comforter. National socialism in Germany probably had such an easy time gaining power because of this cultural imprint.

Do we in the 21st century really still fall victim to these ideals

I am afraid the answer is probably yes! Why else would we pay homage to all these athletes and athletic teams, car racers, show stars, musicians, but also entrepreneurs, managing directors and managers, declaring them our idols? It is the only way to understand why we find it acceptable that they earn the kind of money that is otherwise only sufferable if you think in terms of logarithm.

Even if we all wish to be a little like Winnetou and Old Shatterhand or the other stars – I strongly recommend we throw this way of thinking like Napoleon Hill and company in the rubbish bin. We are all just human beings who should try to deliver a good job as far as our potential allows it.

(Translated by EG)

There are actually still personality trainers and management councellors who ensnare their customers with Napoleon Hill.

2 Kommentare zu “New Find: Eleven Characteristics of a Successful Leader (Napoleon Hill) – or – Where is He, the Super-Human!”

  1. Felix Lange (Wednesday May 11th, 2011)

    Super Artikel!

  2. Chris Wood (Saturday May 21st, 2011)

    Yes, I like it too. I remember a character called Wilson in an old “comic” who could run a mile in 3 minutes. This was soon after the mile was first run in 4 minutes (unfortunately by an Oxford man).
    Sometimes, these heroes were touched with a little humour, for instance a native hero in the Himalayas who defended the British Empire against terrorists, swinging an old cricket bat.

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