Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Was Hitler a Leader?

Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Was Hitler a Leader?

Article excerpt

The architecture of leadership, all the theories and guidelines, falls
apart without honesty and integrity. It is the keystone that holds an
organization together.
--Donald T. Philips

We intuitively recognize the relationship between ethical behavior and leadership. Indeed, in their extensive research over many years in many countries, Kouzes and Posner found honesty as the single most important ingredient in effective leadership. "It's clear that if people anywhere are to willingly follow someone ..., they first want to assure themselves that the person is worthy of this trust. They want to know that the person is truthful, ethical, and principled." (1) Yet, is ethical conduct a requisite component of leadership? Do aspiring leaders have to embrace a sense of morality and ethics to be considered leaders? Was Hitler a leader?

I have asked this question in classes for years. The majority of the members will declare that Hitler was a leader, albeit an immoral one. However, a few will raise their hands in defiance asserting that he should not be considered one. They will agree that Hitler had many leadership qualities, such as great planning and organizing skills, enthusiasm and passion, and clearly an ability to mobilize others to a cause. Yet, the quality that eluded him was a moral foundation. Call him a tyrant, a dictator, or even a supreme ruler, but do not call him a leader.

Most everyone recognizes the value of ethics in leadership. …

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