The human qualities of a leader are in many ways more revealing regarding his or her success, the respect of the people, and the appreciation of descendants than education and professionalism. In different historical times, there were both heroes and despised dictators who had power over entire continents and possessed the minds of millions.
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This report examines the leadership style of Abraham Lincoln as an example of an ethical leader who was moral in his day, and the regime of Adolf Hitler as an example of a mentally unstable leader blinded by the unlimited authority. Lincoln, although through a long war, achieved the unification of the United States and devoted much effort to the restoration of both parts of the country.
Hitler inspired the German people that only the Aryan nation has the right to live, sent millions to fight for world domination, and was not ready for the resistance of allies. Both leaders in their home countries were perceived as representatives of the people, and both were very popular, especially at the beginning of their careers. However, their beliefs and values were radically different, which significantly affected the results of their activities.
Historical Background of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler is a political leader of Germany, whose activities are associated with such monstrous crimes against humanity, as the Holocaust. He was born on April 20, 1889, in Austria, in the town of Braunau am Inn, located near the German border (Kershaw 13). Adolf’s childhood was spent in constant moving, caused by his father’s work, and changing schools, where he showed no special talents.
He had outstanding ability and craving for fine arts, so first of all he tried to pass the exam to The Art Academy, but failed it. In the next few years, the biography of Adolf Hitler was filled with homelessness, poverty, temporary jobs, sheltering under the bridges, and constant moving from place to place. During this period he did not tell his family or friends about where he was, because he was afraid of conscription, where he would have to serve with the Jews, deeply hated by him.
In March 1924, Adolf Hitler, as one of the organizers of the Beer Hall Putsch, was sentenced to five years in prison. But the Nazi spent less than 9 months there: he was released on December 20, 1924, for still unknown circumstances (Hamilton 38). Shortly after his release, Hitler revived the Party and rearranged it, with the help of Gregor Strasser, into a widespread political power. He managed to remove all obstacles from his path, including the President of Germany and the Reichstag, and become an unlimited dictator.
From that moment on, the country began to oppress Jews and Gypsies, trade unions were closed, and the country turned into a massacre for 10 years of his rule. He immediately created the Wehrmacht, restored aviation and tank troops, as well as long-range artillery. Contrary to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany invaded the Rhine, then Czechoslovakia and Austria.
In 1941, in spring, Hitler invaded Yugoslavia and Greece and hit on the Soviet Union on June 22, led by Joseph Stalin those days. In 1943, the Red Army arranged a massive counter-attack on the German army, so in 1945 the Second World War crossed the border of the Reich, which made the Fuhrer absolutely mad (Hamilton 146). He sent teenagers, old, and disabled people to fight with the Soviet army, demanding the soldiers to stand to the end, while he was well-hidden in the bunker and watched from the sidelines.
On April 30, 1945, when Hitler’s house in Berlin was blocked by the Red Army, the Fuhrer made a decision to kill himself. There are a lot of different versions of how Adolf Hitler died (Payne 232). Some historians claim that the Fuhrer took potassium cyanide, while part of them supposes that he shot his head.
Historical Background of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was a US statesman, one of the founders of the Republican party, the 16th President of the United States, who freed the slaves, an American national hero. He was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809 (Buccola 8).
Because he was born in a farming family with poor income, Abraham could not get a full education, went to school no more than a year, and joined the physical work from an early age. At the age of eight, together with his parents, the boy moved to such a place in Indiana, where there was no school nearby at all. Nevertheless, Lincoln learned to read and write, and enjoyed reading. It became an assistant in diligent self-education and a favorite pastime for him.
Young Lincoln had a chance to try a variety of activities – he was a day laborer, carpenter, postman, and lumberjack. In 1830, their family moved to New Salem, Illinois, and Abraham worked as a surveyor, a small clerk in a shop. During the Indian war, Lincoln volunteered for the militia, because the Indians killed his grandfather and grandmother. He was appointed a captain, but he did not serve long and was not involved in the battles.
Working as a postmaster from 1833 to 1836, Lincoln studied law and passed the exam, and in 1836 was granted permission to practice law, which he pursued in subsequent years (Nicolay 43). He succeeded in this field, becoming one of the best lawyers in the state, worked with the Illinois Central railway as a consultant for some time. Such qualities as sharp mind, integrity, honesty, and an unusual gift of eloquence also contributed to his professional growth and strengthening of his authority.
Lincoln’s political biography began in the early 30s with an unsuccessful attempt to take a seat in the statehouse of representatives. However, in 1835, the young Lincoln was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Illinois, where he joined the Whig party. Until 1842, he served as Chairman of the Finance Committee and one of the first persons in his party. The next step in his political career was his election to the US Congress in 1847. Lincoln advocated for the political and civil rights of the broadest masses of the population, such as women’s suffrage. Struggling with slavery, the politician defended stopping the spread of slavery throughout the country. In 1854, Lincoln acted as one of the organizers of the Republican Party. In 1858, he was a candidate for US senators, but he failed the elections.
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Lincoln was elected President in 1860 and served from March 1861 to April 1865. The South responded to his appointment by secession, even though the position of the new President was moderate about slavery; a Civil war broke out in the country (1861-1865). On December 30, 1862, the President signed the “Proclamation on liberation,” which freed 4 million people from the yoke of slavery (Foner 2). In 1863, the government forces won crucial victories that eventually broke the resistance of the South and restore the unity of the nation.
In 1864, Lincoln was re-elected for a second presidential term, although he doubted this decision, and some political forces opposed it. April 14, 1865, Lincoln, who was in Washington at the Ford Theater at the play, was shot by actor J. William Booth, a supporter of the southern slave-owners (Nicolay 92). Lincoln died without regaining consciousness, on the morning of 15 April, becoming, thus, the first murdered President of the United States.
During his time in power, he was subjected continuously to sharp critical attacks; however, according to the results of opinion polls, now Lincoln is still among the most loved and respected presidents of the USA. In Washington, there is a memorial in honor of Abraham Lincoln as one of the four heads of the United States, whose activities determined the historical development of the state.
Definition of Leadership
Not everyone is given to be a leader in the best sense of the word. Many believe that being ahead is very prestigious, but poorly aware of what qualities a leader should have to people seeking to follow him and would like to look up to him. A leader can be a person whose interests are much broader than just his own, because he thinks exceptionally widely, and he is most interested in the personal growth, development, and self-realization of other people. Any leader is the bearer of specific moral norms for a particular association of people, so his worldview must comply with the general universal laws – justice, honesty, reliability, responsibility, and a precise sequence of actions.
The Leadership Styles Represented by the Two Leaders
Since Adolf Hitler got his post, a number of concentration camps and death camps were established in Germany, Poland, and Austria, and the first of them was set near Munich. It is well-known that there were about 42 thousand camps, in which millions of people died in torture (Kershaw 64). These specially built centers were designed for terror and genocide against both prisoners of war, the local population, and the so-called useless material, which included women, children, and disabled persons.
The largest Hitler’s death factories became Auschwitz, Lublin, Buchenwald, and Treblinka, in which dissenters were subjected to monstrous torture and experiments with venoms, incendiary mixtures, gas, which in most cases led to the painful death. All concentration camps were set up to eliminate the whole world population of oppositionists, the unwanted races, real criminals, and other destructive elements for the German leader.
The symbol of Hitler’s ruthlessness and fascism was the Polish city of Auschwitz, where the most terrible death conveyors were built, and where about twenty thousand people were killed every day (Kershaw 91). This place became the center of the extermination of Jews: they died in gas chambers straight after arrival even without registration and identification. Auschwitz became a mournful symbol of the Holocaust – the massive liquidation of the Jews, which was recognized as the biggest genocide of the XX century.
President Abraham Lincoln gathered around him the best, brightest politicians, including his political opponents. He demonstrated his leadership by making a group of people a unique team that consisted of the greatest minds of his time. Many soldiers died during the civil war, and Lincoln visited the battlefield and hospitals to maintain the morale of U.S. citizens; he talked to people and shook hands with everyone (Nicolay 66).
Lincoln could communicate his goals to his countrymen; he was attentive and straightforward in communication. He was also able to listen to different points of view, creating an atmosphere in which members of the government could freely express their opinions without fear of retaliation. At the same time, he knew when to stop the discussion, listening to the views of others to make a final decision. When the war was over, Lincoln was re-elected for a second term. The President never talked about his achievements, on the contrary, in his inaugural speech he focused on the reunification of the whole country.
The Leaders Position
When Hitler gained authority, he held a cleanup in his staff – he organized murder than was called “the night of the long knives” when most of the powerful Nazis disturbing the Hitlers infinite power were eliminated. Having assumed the title of the supreme ruler of the Third Reich, the Fuhrer established the police Gestapo and a complex of death camps, where he imprisoned and tortured Gypsies, Jews, political opponents, prisoners of war, and innocent people.
The basis of Adolf Hitler’s domestic policy was the philosophy of racial discrimination and the superiority of noble Aryans over other peoples. His aim was to become the supreme world leader, making the Slavs elite slaves for the master race, and destroying the lower races, to which he ranked peoples like Jews and Gypsies.
In his last speech, Lincoln strongly advocated the peaceful restoration of the southern states to the Union. Their reconstruction included, in addition to the destruction of slavery, the beginning of a confrontation between American society and liberated black People. Lincoln understood the fundamental task of the legal and political equalization of slaves but did not yet know how to implement it given the racist positions in the South and the North. Voting rights for black men in the South could only be achieved by coercion, which was contrary to Lincoln’s idea of agreement and reconciliation.
Summary and Conclusions
The difference between a dictator and a leader is exceptionally significant, and it can be traced when comparing the leadership style of Hitler and Lincoln. The first of them aspired to the power for the sake of personal ambitions and to vent the irrepressible aggression of the painful consciousness. The Fuhrer experienced constant fear as the war ended and finally went crazy in its last months because he was not ready to be responsible for his actions. Lincoln was guided in his efforts by the needs of the people and tried his best to preserve a single state to protect it from decay and destruction by other countries.
General Statement on Leadership
The experience of both leaders shows that a real leader knows precisely where and why he is going – because it gives him the opportunity to lead his followers. In another case, it will just be a small unit of a large crowd. The leader must be calm, sober-minded, and confident in himself and his compatriots. All these critical qualities help to make the necessary decision in certain critical cases; sometimes he can even take risks because in certain critical situations his determination and courage are increased. Adequate self-confidence significantly extends the limits of the leader’s capabilities, as a result of which he can acquire a new positive life experience.
Buccola, Nicholas. Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy. University Press of Kansas, 2016.
Hamilton, Richard F. Who Voted for Hitler? Princeton University Press, 2014.
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler. Routledge, 2014.
Nicolay, John G. A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln. BoD–Books on Demand, 2018.
Payne, Robert. The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. Vol. 8. Brick Tower Press, 2016.
Foner, Eric. “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” The Chautauqua Journal vol. 2, no. 1, 2018, 1-5.