What Makes a Leader?

It’s an age-old question: Was Hitler a leader?

Under the broad definition of a leader as ‘someone with followers,’ I answered yes. For better or for worse, people followed him. James Burns (2003) would argue differently–that he was a ruler rather than a leader; that people obeyed his orders, but they did not necessarily follow his vision. On this, we disagree.

As I define it, leadership is inherently neither good nor bad, righteous nor evil. In his own twisted way, Hitler tried to make Germany a great nation. Most of history can agree that this vision of his turned out to be pretty darn evil, but he did have a vision and people who helped him carry out his schemes. Fortunately, he failed at fulfilling his vision. So not only was he an evil leader, he was also a straight up bad at it!

He was a controlling personality who always had to have the last word, according to Megargee (2011). He failed to listen to his generals and banked on racial and ideological superiority for success, even in direct conflict with the three greatest nations on earth. He failed to recognize that he had no planned strategies sufficient enough to match his vision (Megargee, 2011).

The man was a leader. A terrible leader in every sense of the word, but also a transforming leader. The man left a mark on the world and on the hearts of millions of people. The Germany and the world he left behind was changed for the worse.

Leadership can’t be defined as good or bad, but leaders can be described as such. If someone follows you, it makes you a leader. It’s up to you to be a good one.


  1. Burns, James MacGregor. (2003). Transforming leadership: A new pursuit of happiness. New York, NY: Grove Press.
  2. Megargee, Dr. Geoffrey. (2011). Hitler’s leadership style. History. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/hitler_commander_01.shtml



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