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Natural Leader

Napoleon’s genius had been attributed to many things, but, above all, he was a superb natural leader of men. Like any wise leader he was aware that his own success would have been nothing had his men not been willing, even eager, to follow him. Obviously he could not know and personally inspire every man in his vast army, therefore he devised a simple technique for circumventing this difficulty. Before visiting a regiment he would call the colonel aside and ask for the name of a soldier who had served well in previous campaigns, but who had not been given the credit he deserved. The colonel would indicate such a man. Napoleon would then learn everything about him, where he was born, the names of his family, his exploits in battle, etc. Later, upon passing this man while reviewing the troops, and at a signal from the colonel, Napoleon would stop, single out the man, greet him warmly, ask about his family, compliment him on his bravery and loyalty, reminisce about old campaigns, then pin a medal on the grateful soldier. The gesture worked. After the review, the other soldiers would remark, “You see, he knows us--he remembers. He knows our families. He knows we have served.”

Bits and Pieces, Oct 17, 1991