BOOKS: by Michael Daniel (reviewer)News Weekly
Hitler and Churchill : Secrets of Leadership, by Andrew Roberts
, September 20, 2003
Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership
by Andrew Roberts
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Rec. price: $49.95Two of the most influential leaders of the modern period were Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill, the former remembered as one of the most evil, the latter generally considered as being one of the greatest. Their actions shaped much of 20th century history.
Although numerous works have been written about each man, this work takes a different approach by focusing on comparing and contrasting the leadership styles and skills of each individual. Roberts argues that differences in leadership are an important factor in Churchill's success and Hitler's ultimate failure in WWII. Such a work is also timely, given revisionist interpretations that seek to demonise Churchill.
The work is divided into two main sections: Hitler and Churchill to 1939 and from 1940 onwards. The differences between the two men soon become apparent. Churchill was from an aristocratic background and had a successful, if controversial political career by the end of World War I; by contrast, Adolf Hitler was an insignificant figure until he entered politics after WWI and the Nazi Party was a relatively minor factor in German politics until the Great Depression. Both men have been considered charismatic figures, Hitler with oratory at rallies, Churchill with his speeches broadcast over the radio.
Their motives were quite different. Whereas Hitler attempted to subordinate and control people, Churchill attempted to motivate and inspire people.
Their relationships with subordinates were also different. Hitler favoured sycophants and appointed people he could control, by finding out about their weaknesses and blackmailing them.
Many of Churchill's appointees who had Churchill's respect, by contrast, challenged him about decisions and policies. Hitler would tolerate no questioning of his authority or decisions and ignored the sound military advice of his generals. For example, the German failure to advance and capture the British troops at Dunkirk was as a result of Hitler's orders.
Roberts also advances some interesting, albeit controversial theories regarding the actions of the two men. For example, he argues that the allies' lack of support for German plots to assassinate Hitler was fortuitous, since had they succeeded, Germany may not have been purged of its militarism and Hitler may have become a martyr figure to inspire future generations.
The West Germany that arose out of the ruin - brought on it by fighting to the bitter end - was an economically prosperous nation that bitterly regrets its Nazi past.Hitler and Churchill
is an interesting and informative parallel analysis of the leadership abilities of these two leaders. It also presents a corrective to recent attempts to character assassinate Churchill.