Hey Thoughty2 here. In 1919 a young ambitious 30-year-old stood in a beer hall in Munich, Germany and gave a passionate speech about politics to 111 attendees. Only four months later, the same young man gave another speech, but this time, due to word of mouth, his audience had grown to over 2000. A few months later he gives another speech with 6,000 devotees in attendance. This is how revolutions begin. That ambitious young man went on to change the world beyond recognition, by committing countless atrocities against the human race and attempting genocide. Yes I am talking about Adolf Hitler.
Do not take my words as praise, but there is no doubt that Hitler’s oration abilities are unrivalled throughout history. His ability to persuade others and bring them into his cause and align their ideals with his own were powerful beyond belief. During one 2 hour speech in 1920 he was completely interrupted 58 times by thundering applause and cheers from the crowd. But was Adolf Hitler a great leader? Absolutely not, effective maybe, but great, no. As humans with a conscience we define great as doing good, therefore a great leader must use their power and influence for good, not evil as Hitler did.
But besides the obvious deplorable reasons that Hitler was not a great leader, he wasn’t actually good at leading. Let me explain, Hitler was a fantastic orator, he gave speeches so powerful, so intense that they made you forget your morals and follow him into a genocidal abyss. He was extremely effective at collecting followers and power. But being able to rally hearts and minds is only one half of being a great leader. For, once Hitler had that power, he was hopeless at putting it to use, at least when you compare him to his wartime competition.
A truly great leader in Hitler’s position of immense power would have leveraged Germany’s strengths and turned wartime Germany into a true superpower, a force to be reckoned with. And a true leader could of done so without ever going to war, using only diplomacy and leverage. There were many years leading up to the war when a great leader could have turned Germany into the modern world’s first superpower giving Germany a far better chance of winning the war or better yet, bypassing it altogether. But Hitler was too consumed by his own hate and pride. His deep hatred of Jews, communists and others caused him to get distracted by and drawn into many futile conflicts that were completely unnecessary and only hindered Germany’s overall strength, such as Stalingrad. He was more concerned with destroying his neighboroughing countries than focusing on the strengths of his own, Germany. These are certainly not the traits of a great leader, just a passionate, angry fool.
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Hitler’s wartime enemy Winston Churchill is also thought of as one of history’s most powerful leaders, but unlike Hitler, many people go as far as to call Churchill a great leader. So what’s the difference? Is Churchill only a great leader, and Hitler is not because Churchill was fighting for good, not evil? Well that certainly helps, but it’s the reason why Churchill was fighting for good which made him a truly great leader. And that reason is a great empathy for his people. Hitler’s motivation for going to war was occupation of neighbouring countries to expand the German empire and his idea of a “pure race” and also genocide, these are selfish reasons, Hitler’s powerful oration may have tricked millions into believing that he had the German people’s best interests in mind, but in truth his motivations were not only selfish, but driven by delusions, insecurity and mental insanity.
Churchill’s motivations were the polar-opposite, he went to war to defend his people and his country from the tyranny of evil, he had no desire to invade and capture other lands or to enslave and murder innocent people. Psychologists have long studied what it takes to be a great leader and they have all converged on one key quality that every great leader from history shared. One mental attribute that separates Churchill from Hitler, emotional intelligence. It is not intellect, cunning or physical prowess that makes a great leader, it is emotional intelligence. That is the ability to sympathise with others, to know how people think, behave and how they will react given any situation.
What made Abraham Lincoln such a great leader? Such an icon, respected throughout the ages. How was he able to overcome the tremendous challenges in abolishing slavery? He possessed more emotional intelligence than his enemies. Whilst the plantation owners and leaders of the confederacy were only concerned with monetary gain from their slaves. Lincoln was able to sympathise with the plight of the slaves, he could humanise them and this gave him the drive, the passion, the motivation to put every fibre of himself into his quest to set them free, and that he did.
Hitler may have been an extremely intelligent man, an incredible orator and powerfully persuasive, but he had not a scrap of emotional intelligence, he had no sympathy. No man who did the things he did could possess these qualities. But Churchill, despite his image as a pragmatic bulldog, did and that’s why he led Britain and the World to victory. But being a great leader isn’t just being able to make the correct decision. A truly great leader must also be able to make the hardest decision of all, when it is most needed of them. No matter the cost.
On 10th May 1940 Winston Churchill was appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain. On the very same day, Hitler launched a huge invasion of France. occupying vast swathes of the country. Before long Hitler’s army had occupied Paris and forced the nation of France to surrender. When Churchill heard that France was prepared to surrender and make a peace deal with Hitler he knew that if the Nazis were to get their hands on France’s navy, which at the time was the second most powerful in the world, after Britain’s, then Britain would be screwed.
Sure, Britain’s navy was powerful, but with the combined might of France’s Navy and Germany’s U-boats, Britain would have been Hitler’s for the taking, and worse yet, if Hitler took Britain, and its navy, the rest of the world would have stood no chance against the spread of Hitler’s tyranny. with all that combined military might, he could have taken the US with ease and today the world would be under Nazi rule, simply because Hitler got his hands on a few French warships. Churchill could absolutely not let this happen. Initially he wrote to the US president FDR and asked if he could borrow fifty of their older warships to defend Britain in the event that Hitler took France’s navy, but FDR was too concerned with winning the upcoming election and so denied Churchill’s request, even after Churchill wrote back to him explaining that if Britain was taken then America would be next.
The French Admiral had made a promise to Churchill that if the Nazis did ever try to take France’s warships then the French would sabotage their own ships rendering them useless to Hitler. But Churchill was too pragmatic to rely solely on the French disabling their own ships and so he formulated a grand plan called operation Catapult. The most daring and most morally difficult plan that Churchill had so far enacted. France’s vast navy was spread out in fleets around the globe, so Churchill planned to use espionage, stealth and if necessary force to capture all of France’s warships and relocate them to British waters.
So, on the 3rd July 1940 operation Catapult was launched and simultaneous takeovers of every French naval vessel took place within a few hours around the globe. Bearing in mind that until now, France was Britain’s closest ally during the war, this must have been a horrendously difficult decision for Churchill to make, but the decision that he had to make in just a few hour’s time would be many times more difficult, in fact it would arguably be the most difficult, the most heart-wrenching decision the Prime Minister would make his entire life. A decision that many historians have since said was one of the biggest turning points of the war and changed the fate of the World.
You see, all but one of the fleets within the French navy could be taken with little effort by simply sneaking British servicemen onboard and putting a gun up to the captain. But one fleet, the strongest and most heavily guarded within France’s navy would not be so simple. In the harbour of Mers-el-Kébir in French Algeria, France had moored their four largest and most powerful ships, the Bretagne, Provence, Strasbourg and Dunkerque, as well as some smaller destroyers. If Hitler got his hands on just this fleet alone it would spell the end of the war for Britain and the world.
Churchill wrote an ultimatum to the French admiral and sent out a fleet of the Royal Navy’s most powerful vessels to deliver it to the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. It gave France just six hours from receiving the letter to sail their large fleet of warships to Britain or America and surrender them or the British Navy will regrettably sink them using force. The Royal Navy surrounded the French fleet and a long, intense standoff wore on for many hours as the French Admiral refused to peacefully surrender his ships to the British, their allies. The French admiral was annoyed that Churchill obviously didn’t trust his promise that the French navy would destroy their own ships if the Nazis tried to take them, he was also annoyed that a lower ranking member of the Royal Navy was sent to deliver Churchill’s ultimatum to him, instead of someone higher up in the command. He also didn’t believe that the British would actually fire upon them if they refused to hand over their ships.
So with the French Admiral remaining stubborn the two supposedly allied nations, stood gun to gun across the harbour in a Mexican standoff. A few hours later the French Admiral called on nearby backup just in case the British did decide to open fire. But the British soon caught wind of the encroaching backup and so the captain sent a telegram to Number 10. Informing Churchill of the incoming French backup only minutes away. Churchill was suddenly weighed down by his worst fear, that it would have to come to this, the possibility of ordering the British to shoot upon their own allies. With little time to think he sent back a short, sharp reply “Settle matters quickly.” and that was it, knowing full well what that might entail.
Regrettably the British fleet knew what they had to do next, as Churchill had briefed them beforehand. Yet the British signalled the French ship once more, giving them one last warning, come to an agreement within 30 minutes or we will open fire. At 5:54pm no agreement had been reached and sure enough the British pointed their cannons at the French vessels and began to fire. The British fleet that day consisted of battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Resolution, an aircraft carrier and several destroyers. But at the helm of the fleet was the Royal Navy’s most powerful weapon, HMS Hood, the largest and most powerful warship in the world at that time, completely unmatched by any other ship. Her huge turrets fired relentlessly upon the French battleships, sinking one and completely destroying the others within minutes.
1,297 French servicemen lost their lives that day at the hand of the British, supposedly their closest ally. Whilst the British public and government were entirely supportive of Churchill’s decision when they found out what had happened, many others around the world, particularly the French were both critical and upset at Britain’s actions that day, seeing on betrayal. It could be argued that Churchill’s move to sink the French navy was over the top and rash but one has to consider what the other outcome would have been, if Hitler had got his hands on those French battleships, it is entirely possible that the entire world, not just Britain, would be under Nazi rule today.
It is reported that when word got back to Churchill in London about what had happened in Mers-el-Kébir and how many French servicemen had been killed he was physically sick and broke down in tears. Whether you agree with operation catapult or not no one can argue how incomprehensibly difficult a decision of that magnitude must have been for Churchill or any other leader to make. Churchill sacrificed over a thousand of Britain’s allies that day to save the British people and potentially the world from the tyranny of evil, a horrible decision to make with irreparable consequences, but if that’s not true leadership then I don’t know what is.
Winston Churchill was recently voted by the British public as the greatest Briton of all time and sure it’s tremendously easy to see how he is great leader. He stared pure evil in the face when the rest of his cabinet wanted to surrender, he led Britain and Western Europe through its darkest hour. He was a master of the english language and used it to inspire and uplift the moral of the British people. But how come there are some leaders today that are considered by their people as great, when the rest of the world can only see the opposite? It used to be that good and evil was so black and white, you would look at the world stage and the vast differences between the goodies and the baddies was laid out bare for all to see. But today our leaders are becoming ever more grey, treading a thin line between good and evil.
Leaders such as Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are so polarising yet so murky. Sure leaders have always had supporters and detractors but in today’s information driven world it’s so easy to find out why supposedly bad leaders do the things they do, instead of relying on propaganda. And with nobody is the balance between good and evil more murkier, harder to understand than with Vladimir Putin. You cannot talk about great leaders without including Putin, for nobody is more loved by their own people. Okay, maybe Kim Jong Un is, but under entirely different circumstances.
Every single week an army of polsters traverses the 11 different time zones of Russia and knocks on the doors of every single house in the country, asking their opinion of Vladimir Putin and other political issues. According to these polls Vladimir Putin’s approval rating by his own people is a staggering 83% and has not dropped below 80% since 2014. And these numbers aren’t superficially increased by the Kremlin, several independent Western polling companies have done similar polls and always arrive around the same number. To put that into perspective Trump’s approval rating is half of that at 40%, Theresa May’s is 43% and Angela Merkel’s is around 50%, at the time of writing this video. But how can this be? Doesn’t most of the west view Putin as a bad guy? Or a troublemaker at the very least.
And it’s easy to see why, Putin has done some rather questionable and immoral things including annexing Crimea, waging a war on the LGBT community, he is suspected of having critics and political enemies killed and the most questionable act of all, he is of course rumored to have used hacking campaigns and propaganda to make Trump president. But no matter how much western politicians and western media demonises him, his approval rating within Motherland Russia just keep increasing with time.
To appreciate why we have to understand the vast difference in culture between Russia and the West. Russians respect strength, whilst Western Europeans may have ideals such as fair democracy, social equality and justice, it is ingrained within the Russian culture to never show weakness. Russians strive for the solidification and strengthening of their own nation. They have a great respect for Russia and any president who can make Russia appear to be strong and not a pushover on the world stage is no doubt going to be popular. Putin does exactly that, the propaganda released from the Kremlin is carefully curated to always show Putin in positions of strength and in manly pursuits like fishing topless, hunting topless and riding a shark, I mean horse, topless! There seems to be a theme here. These are not candid holiday snaps, these are carefully curated to show Putin in his best and strongest light. He appears formidable and able to take on whatever the West throws at him.
Putin may not play nicely on the global stage but whether you sympathise with Putin’s methods of politics or not he is in his own way and for the Russian people at least, a great leader. Leaders come in many forms, throughout history some have led us into the dark abyss, other have led us to victory but one thing that all great leaders do is bring about change within the world and leave their own unique footprint on the future, sometime for the best, sometimes for the worst. So wherever you are in the world, when the time next comes for you to choose a leader, make your choice worthwhile. Thanks for watching.