How a Good Strategy Can Fail: Leadership Lessons from Napoleon’s Rise and Fall

Published 27 May 2024
Reference 6893
Topic Strategy
Industry Military
Region Europe
Length 10 page(s)
Language English

Napoleon was a blue ocean strategist ahead of his time. With his innovative approach to military warfare, he reshaped conventional war strategies. But despite his outstanding and innovative war strategies, success eluded him in the end. His rise through victories at the battles of Lodi, Marengo, and Austerlitz contrasts with his downfall from the Russian invasion and the defeat at the Waterloo battle. This leads us to wonder, what went wrong? What factors can cause a good overall strategy to fail? Delving into the reasons behind Napoleon’s rise and fall, this case suggests that the decline in the quality of his interactions with his marshals and staff in the latter part of his career led to inferior battle strategies that finally led to his downfall. The case underscores the importance of practicing fair process at the strategy formulation stage to ensure a strategy’s effectiveness in terms of both content and execution, thereby achieving successful performance outcomes.

Teaching objectives

•Fair process is a decision-making approach that addresses our basic human need to be valued and respected. Leaders using fair process appeal to people’s intellect and emotions, which in turn promotes their voluntary knowledge sharing and cooperation. •To ensure good strategy, practicing fair process at the strategy formulation stage is critical. And to consistently practice fair process, the three criteria of engagement, explanation, and setting of clear expectations need to be incorporated into the decision-making process. •Understanding the value of fair process is crucial for leaders as they formulate their strategies. Fair process is a critical element of leadership. A leader who violates fair process is likely to produce a poor strategy. In the case of Napoleon, while his overall war strategy remained innovative throughout his key battles, his leadership deteriorated over the course of these battles due to the lack or absence of practicing fair process with his marshals and staff, producing poor battle strategies that led to his final downfall. •Even the most well-formulated strategies can fail if leaders disregard the principles of fair process. Engaging team members in the decision-making process, explaining the reasons behind decisions, and setting clear expectations are essential to ensure commitment and trust. Disregarding fair process can lead to resistance, diminished trust, and ultimately, the failure of a great strategy.

  • Blue Ocean Strategy
  • Leadership
  • Fair process
  • Napoleon
  • Decision-making process
  • Strategy failure
  • Strategy execution
  • Procedural justice
  • Q22024