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Edgy Ideas Podcast on Napoleon: Leadership

Lessons with Stephanie Jones and Jonathan Gosling

A Study in Power

He came to France an immigrant and left an exile – but, in a career spanning just 35 years, he became general, consul and emperor. 
Napoleon’s name came to be synonymous with enormous ambition, military genius and national glory. Two hundred years after his death, what lessons can we learn from his rise and fall?


He had a powerful personality and was brilliant in many ways: courageous, passionate, imaginative and determined – the list of his qualities could go on, and would also include less appealing features: ruthless, opportunistic, manipulative and treacherous. But these hardly distinguish him from many others in political and public life. The character is fascinating, but traits explain little about greatness. 


A better question is this: what did he do to achieve so much, to gain and hold power amidst cultural and political transformations that were much more chaotic and disturbing than we face now? 


This is a question of tactics – what were the tactics of power that he deployed through different parts of his career? 

This fascinating study on leadership and power tackles the questions that continue to intrigue and mystify. As now, power was gained and held by political manipulation, patronage, fear, putsch, charisma, populism and the ideal of meritocracy.  

Through a series of 8 episodes in Napoleon’s career, enriched by  Reflections and Questions, Stephanie Jones and Jonathan Gosling highlight some important lessons for current and future managers and leaders. This book is a must-read for students of leadership, practicing managers and leaders, and anyone with an interest in Napoleon, his rise to power, his command of the global stage and his ultimate defeat.

Other Books By the Same Authors

Napoleon's hat on a grey background with title of book in blue

Napoleonic Leadership

Painting of Nelson poining at something and sailors looking at him on a boat and title of the book

Nelson's Way

Goldfish on book with one green goldfish and text of book

key Concepts in Leadership



For better or for worse, power is a central issue in the study and practice of leadership. Jones and Gosling take us on an intellectually stimulating journey through the eyes of a complex leader – Napoleon – who left us a contradictory legacy of glory and misery. Business and political leaders could benefit greatly from the insights found in this book. 

Ultimately, of course, Napoleon failed and the position he held went to his head. This did not happen overnight or on the basis of one incident. To what extent is it inherent to autocratic models of power, and its concentration in elite hands? To what extent was it a product of its personality, and may be shared by all those who are …‘intensely ambitious’?

“… I will probably recommend it as secondary reading to those who want to use historical cases to think more about leadership

The authors have fully capitalised on their opportunity to study one of the world's most complex and enduring leadership subjects. They provide a clever and compelling integration of well-chosen thematic historical material with sharp contemporary leadership analysis that business executives, public sector leaders and academics alike can derive a great deal of intellectual stimulation and sound practical advice from. I strongly commend this novel and delightful book.

The book would work well as part of a leadership short course.

The authors’… leadership teaching experience and their previous authorship around Nelson makes them very well placed to write this book.  It’s difficult to think of who could be better to write it.

Napoleonic Leadership stands out from the other titles because it examines Napoleon’s style of leadership in a way perhaps not considered in other histories about the emperor. Indeed, it is not strictly a history at all, rather an academic text aimed at aiding the study of leadership as a subject in itself. Although written as an academic text, the book is easy to read and not overly heavy in the academic language that can so often put off the general reader. This interesting and different book certainly deserves a five out of five star rating.

A great man once said that “class is ageless”.  Thanks to Jones and Gosling, the leadership study that is Napoleon is ageless.  Any student of leadership will come to understand the role of power, of politics, of personal charisma and of the needs of the people.  

Whether you are studying leadership, or doing leadership, this is a rollicking good read, and a fabulously rich text book.  

The book was reviewed in the Spanish journal ‘Pasado y Momoria’ by Prof Alberto Cañas de Pablos (of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid). He concludes the review by applauding its original and practical insights into the modes of domination and leadership exemplified by Napoleon and applicable to politics in much of the world today: 


"Así, el libro constituye una apuesta diferente y original para plasmar el modo de dominación y liderazgo político establecido por Napoleón Bonaparte desde un punto de vista más pragmático y especialmente concreto de lo que suele ser habitual. Al aproximar la figura del general-Emperador al liderazgo en la actualidad en cualquier campo, este estudio del poder es capaz de explicar con solvencia los instrumentos sobre los que se construyó el edificio de dominio napoleónico, muchos de los cuales continúan siendo empleados en parte hoy en día por políticos de todo el mundo." 


For the full review click here 

In The Press
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