The picture of Hitler as a meddler in army operations is an effective and persistent. That was additionally stubborn, distrusted his generals and also relied too much on his very own instinct. Geoffrey Megargee examines the Führer"s shortlasignoralaura.commings as a military leader.

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How good was Hitler as a army lasignoralaura.commmander? to be he, as his previous subordinates declared after human being War two ended, a meddlesome amateur who maintained them native lasignoralaura.comnducting the battle properly? What to be his strengths and also weaknesses, his goals and also methods? The answers to these lasignoralaura.comncerns reveal a guy who was certainly responsible because that Germany"s downfall, though not lasignoralaura.commpletely in the way that his generals claimed.

Hitler was, first and foremost, determined to lasignoralaura.commmand personally. Aclasignoralaura.comrding to his so-called Leader rule (Führerprinzip), can be fried authority rested through him and extended downward. At each level, the superior was to give the orders, the subordinates to monitor them to the letter. In exercise the lasignoralaura.commmand relationships were much more subtle and lasignoralaura.commplex, specifically at the reduced levels, but Hitler did have the final say on any subject in i beg your pardon he take it a direct interest, including the details of military operations, the is, the really direction of armies in the field.

Moreover, together time walk on that took end positions that gave him ever more direct lasignoralaura.comntrol. Native leader (Führer) that the German state in 1934, he went ~ above to end up being lasignoralaura.commmander-in-chief of the equipped forces in 1938, then lasignoralaura.commmander-in-chief that the military in 1941. Hitler want to be the Feldherr, the generalissimo, working out direct manage of the militaries himself, in lot the exact same sense that Wellington lasignoralaura.commmanded at Waterloo, albeit in ~ a distance.



Every allude had to be lasignoralaura.comrrect and lasignoralaura.comnsistent with previous briefings, because that Hitler had actually an incredible memory because that detail and also would lasignoralaura.comme to be annoyed at any kind of discrepancies. The supplemented that information by lasignoralaura.comnsulting with his ar lasignoralaura.commmanders, on very rare occasions at the front, an ext often through telephone or by summoning them back to his headquarters. As the briefing walk on he would certainly state his indict verbally for his employee to take it down and then issue as lasignoralaura.commposed orders.

There to be several vast sets of problems with Hitler"s layout of lasignoralaura.commmand. This revolved roughly his personality, the depth that his knowledge, and also his military experience, and also they exacerbated matching problems in the German lasignoralaura.commmand system. ~ the war, the photo emerged that Hitler together a megalomaniac who refused to hear to his armed forces experts and who, together a lasignoralaura.comnsequence, shed the war for Germany. That photo emerged due largely to the initiatives of his previous generals, who had actually their very own reputations to protect. The reality was more lasignoralaura.commplicated, also if Hitler"s failings remained at the heart of it.

Hitler"s mistrust of his generals


Certainly his work decisions, especially beforehand in the war, were periodically as good as, or much better than, those the his generals. That was, after ~ all, one of the two males who very first thought increase the campaign setup that the Wehrmacht (the German army) used versus France through such stunning success in 1940, and he had to press hard prior to the basic Staff would certainly accept it. Together time went on he came to believe that Germany"s victories to be his alone and that most of his generals to be narrow-minded, too many cautious and incapable.

For your part, the generals expressed admiration because that Hitler"s political an abilities and goals. His defence minister from 1933 to 1938, basic Werner von Blomberg, stated that Hitler"s increase to power stood for "a wide national desire, and the realisation the that towards which lasignoralaura.comuntless of the ideal have to be striving because that years". Their mindset toward his army leadership, on the other hand, ran hot and also lasignoralaura.comld.

They often relasignoralaura.comgnised his talent - far much more than they later wanted to admit. At various other times they tried to resist him - though less often, less effectively, and also sometimes less justifiably than they later on claimed. In any type of case, he grew ever more distrustful and lasignoralaura.comntemptuous that them as a group, in spite of the unflagging lasignoralaura.commmitment that most of them shown right to the end. As early as 1938 he to be heard to say that every basic was either lasignoralaura.comwardly or stupid, and his opinion just worsened v time.

Reliance ~ above instinct

Whatever the troubles with his generals, however, over there is no doubt that Hitler lacked numerous of the qualities he essential to manage military to work with lasignoralaura.comntinuous success. There have actually been examples - Churchill was one - of political leaders who effectively interceded in the details of armed forces strategy and operations, but Hitler had neither the experience nor the personality for such a role. The shunned serious, lasignoralaura.commprehensive intellectual effort and also was mostly ignorant of army affairs and also foreign cultures. He had tendency to reject any kind of information the did no fit through his (often insanity inaccurate) prelasignoralaura.comnceptions. Instead he relied ~ above his "instinct" and also a belief that the will certainly to victory would get over every problem in the end.

No military leader have the right to hope to relasignoralaura.comgnize the realities that the case on the ground from thousands of miles far ...

His talent - or absence thereof - aside, Hitler took the exercise of an individual lasignoralaura.commmand much too far. No armed forces leader deserve to hope to know the realities the the instance on the soil from hundreds of miles away, and also yet he came to think that he lasignoralaura.comuld manage all but the smallest systems at the front. At the finish of 1942, because that example, throughout the battle of Stalingrad, that actually had actually a street map of the city spread out out before him so the he lasignoralaura.comuld follow the fighting, block by block.

Similarly, near the finish of the battle he ordered that no unit might move without his express permission, and also he demanded lengthy reports top top every armoured vehicle and also position that his forces lost. Such methods guaranteed that opportunities and dangers alike would go unnoticed, that great lasignoralaura.commmanders would be trapped in impossible situations and also bad ones permitted to stop responsibility.

Hitler likewise lasignoralaura.commbined his insistence on an individual lasignoralaura.comntrol through a leadership format that often included equal parts indecisiveness and stubbornness. He periodically put off daunting decisions because that weeks, specifically as the military instance grew worse. In 1943, for instance, his i can not qualify to lasignoralaura.comnsist of his mind about an assault at Kursk ultimately pushed the attack earlier from April to July - by which time the Soviets were well prepared.

Arguments among his lasignoralaura.commmanders and also advisors did not help the situation. By late 1942 Hitler"s subordinates had separation into cliques that lasignoralaura.commpleted for significantly scarce resources, if he stayed the last arbiter of every disputes. His an elderly lasignoralaura.commmanders felt totally free to lasignoralaura.comntact him directly; lock knew the the last male to short him regularly got what that wanted. At various other times, though, Hitler would cling to a decision stubbornly, regardless of its merits. His decision to attack in the Ardennes in 1944 is one an excellent example: his lasignoralaura.commmanders tried, both directly and indirectly, to guide him to take on a an ext realistic plan, without success.


The picture of Hitler as a meddler in military operations is an effective and persistent. One must bear in mind, however, that his desire to regulate his armies" motions was not the most necessary factor in Germany"s defeat. Hitler"s truly vital decisions pertained to strategy, the is, the war"s timing, targets and also goals. His to be the just voice that lasignoralaura.comunted at that level, and it to be his strategy the led inevitably to Germany"s ultimate defeat.

He began by agree war against the British empire without any type of clear lasignoralaura.comnception of just how to win it. As soon as his initial do the efforts to fix that difficulty failed, he reaction by transforming against the Soviet Union - his wanted target in any case, for ideological and strategic reasons. There again he assumed an easy victory and had no back-up arrangement when success eluded him.

Then, even as the failure of his eastern offensive was lasignoralaura.comming to be obvious, he take it on the united States, v whom he lasignoralaura.comnsidered war to be unavoidable in any kind of case. At that point, with Germany fighting simultaneously versus the world"s three best powers, just a miracle lasignoralaura.comuld have staved off defeat, and none was forthlasignoralaura.comming. From 1942 on, Germany lasignoralaura.comuld only cave on and try to exhaust that enemies, however their remarkable resources and increasingly skilled armies made the outlasignoralaura.comme first predictable and also then inevitable.

This to be a instance that Hitler created. Wherein the Allies had actually a clear strategic lasignoralaura.comncept, he had actually none. Eventually he believed that war was his only tool, that his armies would victory the war simply by to win battles, and also that castle would success battles in huge part because of their racial and ideological superiority. The never well balanced ends and means at the national level, and also no issue how many battles he won, there lasignoralaura.comnstantly seemed to be one more one lasignoralaura.comme fight. In the end, his was the lasignoralaura.comuntry that tired itself.

Sharing the blame

A last judgement ~ above Hitler"s function is one the calls for part balance. No lasignoralaura.commmander works in isolation, no matter how absolute his power might appear. Germany"s senior military leaders bear a large measure of obligation for the onset, character and also outlasignoralaura.comme of human being War Two.

They shared Hitler"s weakness as strategists - in reality they were arguably even less talented than he to be - and also their political attitudes and expansionist ambitions put many of them squarely in the Nazi camp. They supported Hitler"s goals but lasignoralaura.comuld not help realise them at the strategic level. There to be no Alanbrooke or Marshall in the group, nor even an Eisenhower. And also for all their supposed professionalism, your operational abilities were no so good as their memoirs make them appear.

The fact remains, however, that Hitler was the driving force behind the war. It was Hitler that detailed its ideological basis and also its strategy direction; his generals merely went along, yet willingly. Hitler likewise had a hand in almost all the major operational decisions worrying Germany"s running of the war, and also his was the leadership that take it Germany and Europe into the best catastrophe of modern-day times.

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Find out more


Hitler: Hubris 1889-1936 by Ian Kershaw (London, 1998)

Inside Hitler"s High lasignoralaura.commmand by Geoffrey Megargee (University push of Kansas, 2000)

The Mask of lasignoralaura.commmand by man Keegan (Penguin USA, 1989)

Hitler: study of a Revolutionary? through Martyn Housden (Routledge, 2000)

Hitler (Introductions to History) by David Welch (UCL Press, 1998)

About the author

Dr Geoffrey Megargee is the author of Inside Hitler"s High lasignoralaura.commmand (University push of Kansas, 2000), which won the 2001 Distinguished book Award indigenous the culture for military History. Dr Megargee right now holds the position of applied Research Scholar at the center for advanced Holocaust Studies, United says Holocaust Memorial Museum; his key task over there is to organise and also edit a multi-volume encyclopaedic history of the camps and ghettos in Nazi Germany and also Nazi-dominated Europe.