On Adolf Hitler: A Good or a Bad Leader?
National Archives at College Park – Still Pictures, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Many-a-times my friends and I have discussed Adolf Hitler. And many-a-times I have surprised them with my perspective.
These conversations usually took place where such strange, out-of-the-way conversations usually take place. In bars, while drinking down our second bottle of whiskey, or at some improvised party (again, while drinking, I might add) held at a friend’s house when their parents are not at home for the weekend.
Only alcohol has the ability to provoke a bunch of guys in their early twenties, who have not experienced or seen life enough, to comment on such random, off-beat topics relating to history or politics or philosophy or society, with such great authority as if they had lived a full life, lived through all the events of history, studied all the branches of philosophy, and observed our complex society as no one had before.
These conversations usually had no sense of purpose, no connection to any previous topics, no relation to anyone’s present life, and no direction in general. They were just random conversations on random topics that would come out of a drunk friend’s mouth. A friend who, in most cases, himself did not know much about the topic he had broached.
The topics varied from party to party, day to day, and drink to drink.
Some days we discussed history with such intensity as if we were well-established and well-revered historians. On other days we spoke of different philosophies (even though each had only a superficial knowledge of any given philosophy) as if we were all the founders or staunch disciples of those branches of philosophies. While on some other days, we discussed and argued about politics of the past, present, and future, with such confidence and assurance that a layman would be convinced that we were well-respected political analysts.
Now that I have managed to bore you with a brief history of my drunken discussions with my drunk friends, allow me to get back to the topic at hand. The topic at hand was always a topic at hand with my friends and me during those aimless drunken conversations.
This topic was always broached, asked in the form of a question, discussed, argued upon, and disagreed upon. The question of whether Adolf Hitler, that great evil Austrian-born German dictator who ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945 and who changed the world like few other men before he ever had, was a good leader or not. Some even dared to ask if he was a great leader or not.
Now, before we get into the details, and before I lay down my point of view and that of my friends who cared to discuss this topic, let me give you a gentle disclaimer: I do not support or admire Adolf Hitler. I never have, still do not, and never will!
Now that that’s out of the way, I think we can carry on.
So what are my views on this topic, you ask? Why are some of my friends shocked and surprised by my perspective, you ask? Well, I will tell you why.
It is because I am one of the few people in that crowd who dares to give Hitler the credit he deserves. The credit that is due to him. In short, I am one of the few who dare to say that Hitler was not only a good leader but an exceptionally great one. An extraordinary one. A leader the human race has rarely ever witnessed in history.
And this opinion of mine is what shocks many-a-friend, leading them to react something like this, “What! What the hell are you even talking about bro? Hitler, a great leader? Are you serious? Are you crazy? Do you even know what you’re talking about? Do you even know the crimes he has committed? The evil he has wrath on millions of innocent human beings? The destruction and hate he spread with such pride and arrogance?” and so on and on they would go on to describe all the crimes and sins committed by that crazy, war-loving, hate-spreading dictator as if I were some naive, ignorant man who never even suspected such a thing.
On such occasions, I would usually wait for them to end their tirade against Hitler and me while sipping my whiskey and showing my palm and shaking it gently, indicating to them to relax, calm down and let me finish, for I am certain they have misunderstood me.
Needless to say, that never worked. I was forced to bear the brunt of their hatred towards Hitler and his cause, all of which I agreed with. But that was not my point.
Once they were tired and done with their long, winding tirade, I would immediately begin with my own long, winding tirade. I would first begin by trying to calm the waters. I would tell them that the context in which I spoke is entirely different from the context in which they retorted. I would tell them that first, we must all establish what we mean by the phrase good leader. And then I would go on to tell them how I understood the phrase.
For your benefit, I shall explain in detail.
What I understand by the phrase good leader, is a person who has the ability to convince, convert, and lead a great mass of humanity in accordance with and towards his vision, for a cause he believes in, or for a mission or goal he wishes to accomplish.
Good leaders can convince people about the righteousness of their cause, about the truth in their ideology and movement, and about the necessity of their actions. They have the knack, ability, and skill to convince the masses to follow them blindly, unquestioningly, instilling in the masses boundless faith and confidence in them, their leadership, and their cause. And to achieve all these things, they usually require great charisma, an ingredient that most great leaders have in abundance, in some way or the other. Fidel Castro had it. Benito Mussolini had it. Hugo Chavez and Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and Francisco Franco and Martin Luther King Jr. and Mao Zedong had it. And clearly, Hitler had it too.
And now comes the most important part. I believe that as long as a leader has the above-mentioned qualities, they can be considered a good or even great leader, regardless of the nature or righteousness of their cause. Regardless of whether they stand for a good or evil cause.
Basically, what I mean to say is, we must not judge a leader to be good or bad based on the goodness or evilness of their cause, but rather on their leadership skills and abilities. The phrase good leader must be used based on those leadership skills that all great leaders must necessarily possess in order to convince an entire nation, or any mass of humanity, to act according to their wishes and ideas.
Therefore, I dare say that Hitler was an excellent leader, with great and extraordinary leadership skills, but a bad person who used his great leadership skills for a bad, evil cause. If only Hitler would have used his skills towards a good cause, without a doubt, he would be widely regarded as one of the greatest leaders to have ever lived.
But very few people acknowledge or even consider that. They call him a bad and terrible leader as their judgment is often clouded by his bad, terrible, and evil cause.
Hitler had to have had some kind of magnetic charisma, and great persuasion and decision-making skills, to be in a position where almost the entire population of Germany supported and followed him in his acts, either because they feared him or loved him, whatever may be the case. Certainly, he was quite a passionate, charismatic speaker, a fact that can hardly be denied. I am sure that helped a lot, although I do not know how far.
I also honestly believe that human beings, at least a great majority of them, are inherently good. Some definitely change drastically according to their circumstances, but, in general, I am convinced of our inherent goodness.
Now imagine the fact that Hitler was able to convince almost the entire population of Germany, which I truly believe to have been inherently good and decent, to commit the war crimes they eventually committed. They might have done it out of fear or out of confidence and faith in him. I do not know, and probably never will. All I know is that it is something truly astounding. Shocking even. One has to have great powers of persuasion to pull that off, and it seems to me that Hitler certainly possessed those powers.
But I believe that one must keep the nature of his cause (good or evil) aside for a brief moment and then judge his leadership skills accordingly. Or perhaps, for a brief moment (even though I understand how difficult it may be), imagine that Hitler had stood for a good, noble, and just cause. Would their opinions regarding his leadership skills change then? Would they start considering him a good or even a great leader?
I believe they would, even though most would not dare to admit it. And the reason for their reluctance to admit it is quite simple. It is because the phrase good leader has become synonymous with a leader of a good cause, while completely ignoring the actual leadership skills that must truly determine if a leader is a good leader or a poor one.
Speaking, admitting, or acknowledging Hitler’s great leadership skills is often misunderstood as admiring or supporting the man. A misunderstanding that could not be further from the truth. They are obviously not one and the same, and if one is willing to look at it objectively, they may even end up agreeing with me.
As I have mentioned earlier, I despise Hitler. I despise what he stood for. I despise his philosophy of the supremacy of the so-called Aryan race who were meant to rule the world. I despise his arrogance, his pride, and his cruel nature. I despise his actions. And most of all, I despise his attitude towards and ill-treatment of our Jewish brothers and sisters. The torture he put them through and the unthinkable, unspeakable, and horrific crimes he committed against them, I hate it all with sincere passion.
But, at the risk of sounding arrogant and naive, I must say that these traits which I hate about the man do not cloud my judgment of his leadership skills as it does for most people who judge not objectively but emotionally.
And this, my dear reader, is how I defend myself against my friends who question my stand and suspect my views. I try to simply show them that I prefer to label a leader as a good leader solely based on their leadership skills and not by the nature of their cause.
But if one still wishes to insist that a good leader can be labeled a good leader only if they are the leader of a good cause, then, I admit, I have no argument to put forward in such a case. If that is the logic by which we must all judge a leader to be good or bad, then I say that Hitler was undoubtedly one of the worst kinds of leaders to have ever existed. A despicable one!
Once I am done with this boring tirade in my defense, I usually find my friends in different states of mind. Some, who see my logic, understand it, and agree with it, maybe even adopting it for themselves. Some disagree with the way I judge a leader to be good or bad and insist that a good leader must necessarily be judged based on the goodness or righteousness of their cause. And some, who either did not listen to me at all, or do not care at all about what I said, or are still on the fence, struggling to make up their minds.
Whatever their opinion might be, it does not matter at the end of the day. For we are all entitled to our own opinions without being judged by the other person. And, even more importantly, we are all aware of the fact that by the next morning, we will all either get over it or forget about it and move on, until the next drinking session.