This book is a work of history, not theology or secular ethics; consequently, it does not and will not pass a moral judgement (i.e., perform moral and ethical evaluation) on Hitler’s leadership and management style (these are actually two different things – or two sides of the same coin, if you will).
It also separates his crimes and his non-criminal activities by analyzing them in different sections of this chapter. Consequently, this section will present only the functional evaluation of his leadership and management style. In other words, did it result in making the best possible decisions and implementing them in the most efficient way.
I will only state (I will prove it beyond the reasonable doubt in the section devoted to his crimes) that the latter were much worse than horrendous criminal acts – they were colossal strategic blunders (some more than the others) that hindered, not helped (as he erroneously believed) him achieve his strategic objectives.
In other words, his being a criminal (probably the worst criminal in human history) was a fundamental deficiency of his leadership and management philosophy and style. Which contributed significantly to the defeat in World War II and the demise of the Third Reich.
Adolf Hitler was both a civilian leader (CEO of Germany, if you will) and a military commander (commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht – the German armed forces). Consequently, I will devote two sections to the analysis of his leadership and management style – one to civilian, the other to the military aspects.
To properly evaluate Hitler’s leadership and management style, we must first identify the four key periods in the history of Nazism and the Third Reich: 1919-33 (Nazi ascent to power); 1933-39 (transformation of Weimar Republic into a totalitarian Nazi Führerstaat); 1939-41 (the first two years of World War II) and 1942-45 (the final three years of the war).
The first three were triumphantly successful; the last one was a total disaster. Disaster that led to defeat in World War II, demise of the Third Reich and Hitler’s suicide in the Führerbunker.
Consequently, we can safely infer that his leadership and management style worked well (very well, actually) during the first three periods and then simply stopped working.
In one of the previous sections of this book (on political entrepreneurship) I already explained why it happened (with entrepreneurial ventures it happens all the time). Starting from the late spring of 1940 (roughly) the system that Adolf Hitler had to manage, got too complex for his leadership and management style.
To continue his impressive (and genuinely miraculous) string of successes both in civilian life and on the battlefields, he had to change his style (how exactly – I will try to explain a bit later).
Unfortunately for him, he was too stubborn – and had too little education and training in management theory (none, actually) – to make these absolutely vital changes (existential even).
Which led to absolutely predictable results – being unable to cope with the magnitude of the system under his management (and thus to solve management problems that he faced), he inevitably started to make mistakes. And not just mistakes, but colossal strategic blunders (Dunkirk, Battle of Britain, Operation Sea Lion, Crete instead of Malta, failure to capture Moscow, etc.).
Blunders that inescapably led to only one destination – suicide in in the Führerbunker.
It is very important to note (and to always keep in mind) that Adolf Hitler never failed as a civilian leader and government manager. On the contrary, he was (and still is) the most successful civilian statesman in modern history. He only failed (and failed miserably and disastrously) as a military commander.
It is also very important to keep in mind that during the war (since its very beginning, actually) Adolf Hitler occupied himself almost exclusively with military matters, issues and problems.
Civilian affairs were left mostly to his subordinates (ultimately coordinated by Martin Bormann who became essentially the civilian administrator of the whole Third Reich).
As just about all crimes of Adolf Hitler (with the exception of the Night of Long Knives and criminal activities of SA and SS in concentration camps) were committed at wartime (and thus by definitions are war crimes), his civilian period was not much more criminal that many of his contemporaries (Franco, Mussolini, Salazar, etc.).
And far, far less criminal (by at least three orders of magnitude) than the reign of Joseph Stalin. Kristallnacht was obviously a crime (no question about that) but in that situation in Germany it could not have been avoided – whether Hitler wanted it to happen or not.
Consequently, the following statement by Hitler’s biographer Joachim C. Fest is, obviously, true and correct:
“If Hitler had succumbed to an assassination or an accident at the end of 1938, few would hesitate to call him one of the greatest of German statesmen, the consummator of Germany’s history”.