A website based on Radhanath Swami's Leadership Lessons

To what extent should the subordinates fear a leader?

Hitler is the name synonymous with the Holocaust and the Nazis. Many opine that Hitler lost
World War II not because he lacked military power or war winning strategies, but because he
underestimated the position of his enemy. Hitler punished those who brought him bad news. So
his subordinates feared him, and stopped giving him true information. Thus Hitler remained in the
illusory world, thinking he would be the next emperor of the planet.

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World
War II. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR. In addition to the large number
of troops, it also involved 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses. Planning for Operation
Barbarossa started on 18 December 1940; the secret preparations and the military operation
itself lasted almost a year, from spring to winter of 1941. The Red Army repelled the Wehrmacht’s
strongest blow and Adolf Hitler did not achieve the expected victory, but the Soviet Union’s situation
remained dire. Tactically, the Germans had won some resounding victories and occupied some of
the most important economic areas of the country, mainly in Ukraine. Despite these successes, the
Germans were pushed back from Moscow and could never mount an offensive simultaneously along
the entire strategic Soviet-German front again.

Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in human history in both manpower and
casualties. Its failure was a turning point in the Third Reich’s fortunes. Hitler had underestimated the
power of the Soviet Union. Perhaps Hitler could have saved himself from this precarious condition
had he not installed fear in his subordinates, who could have then provided him with the right
information.

To what extent should the subordinates fear a leader? If there is no fear, the leader could be
ineffective. But if there is too much fear, the leader might reach the same end as Hitler. How could a
leader go about this dilemma?

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