Published here August, 2007.  

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary | Postscript


After completing a book review our practice is to submit the text to the author and ask them to check it to make sure that we have not made any errors of fact. In this case I had to admit to some struggle with my own personal biases regarding Napoleon as an historic figure, hoping that his would not adversely impact my review of Jerry Manas's book. In response, Jerry wrote as follows:

"I think you raise some good points. I completely agree that, in the end, his power superseded his original vision, and he lost track of his own principles. While Napoleon was far from perfect, as you've noted, my reason for writing the book was to address the questions, "How could someone achieve so many objectives so quickly against such insurmountable odds, create such a strong representative government built on equality (except of course for women, but I think that was more a product of the times), and then lose it all? And what could today's leaders learn from these strengths and weaknesses?

There were certainly many details I would have liked to include in the book (and in fact did originally), including his relationship with Josephine, his censorship of the presses, more details around his makeshift military court for the Duc D'Enghien, his neglect to address women and children's rights in his codes, and so on. Unfortunately, to keep the book concise and focused, I needed to edit out quite a bit. I probably cut out about a hundred pages. I did keep some of the material on my website in the Articles section in an essay titled: The Truth About Napoleon. You may find that interesting.

I should add that I knew absolutely nothing about Napoleon when I began the research, aside from a rudimentary image of a short guy with a big ego. Then I began to see numerous compelling quotes from Napoleon in several books I was reading. To my surprise, the quotes didn't jive with my preconceived idea of Napoleon. They were thoughtful, introspective, and, dare I say, humane.

That's what compelled me to write the book, and what launched me into years of researching some 30-50 books, mostly conflicting with each other. I tended to favor the books with more supporting examples and evidence for that reason. I grew to understand Napoleon as quite a complex and almost sympathetic character, a brilliant thinker with the most compelling of motives - to bring equality to Europe. Yet I would see other examples where he wasn't so sympathetic. A true anomaly.

I must say that much (but not all) of the common negative view of Napoleon appears to be based on negative propaganda from the time. The book Napoleon Bonaparte by Vincent Gallo is extremely well researched, with examples of original letters and documents, etc., and that contradicted some of the other books that lacked the same evidence. If you ever decide to do further research, I found that book to be an eye opener. If it weren't for the supporting details, I would have just suspected he was a Napoleon sympathizer.

For example, I've seen books and documentaries say how Napoleon abandoned his troops in Egypt, and again in Russia. In both cases, documented evidence showed that wasn't the case, and in both cases, there were meetings with Napoleon and his marshals where it was agreed that he needed to return to save France from being overthrown. Of course, by the end, even his marshals abandoned him, as they were sick of fighting and he just wouldn't give up. By the time he was ready to make concessions, the damage was done.

Still, Napoleon clearly had his faults. I would say my number one challenge with the book was to make sure I didn't twist Napoleon's actions to suit my personal view on what management should be. I wanted to take the best he had to offer and frame it accordingly, and use his negative traits as warning signs. So, in the end, I guess it collectively served to illustrate my views. His words and principles were that of someone I could have admired, as were many of his actions. In the end, I'm not sure I would have liked him very much, especially once his power grew. Even so, I thought the lessons from both his rise and his fall have quite a bit to offer.

Finally, if I had found through my research that he was the ruthless dictator that many made him out to be, I wouldn't have written the book, no matter how brilliant he was. It's why I refused to write a book on Caesar, even though people tell me it would sell. Looking at the whole Roman Empire, however, has many lessons from those who succeeded and failed, and I covered that in an article series. I may do that as a book one day.

Meanwhile, my next book is called 'Managing the Gray Areas', which is basically a book that promotes humane management and open thinking (as opposed to 'black and white thinking' and 'one size fits all' leadership). It should be much less controversial, although it does pull lessons from history, science, and many other genres.

Jerry Manas"
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