10 Lessons in Strategy from the Mastermind Napoleon Bonaparte

Trying out something a little different today. Strategic thinking is one of my favorite topics, and Napoleon Bonaparte is one of my favorite people to study for lessons on strategic thinking. So, today I’m going to give you a list of lessons I’ve learned from one of the greatest military strategists in history.

Born in Corsica in 1769, Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the most successful military commanders in history, with a career marked by numerous victories and conquests. He was known for his brilliant strategic mind and ability to think quickly on his feet, adapting to changing circumstances on the battlefield. He rose to power during the French Revolution and conquered much of Europe before his downfall in 1815. His military campaigns were marked by innovation, daring, and an unrelenting focus on achieving victory.

Here are 10 strategies employed by Napoleon Bonaparte that made him a master strategist:

Use deception to your advantage

One of the most notable features of Napoleon’s ability to think strategically was his ability to surprise and outmaneuver his enemies. He was a master of deception, using feints and diversions to confuse and distract his opponents. For example, during the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, Napoleon allowed his center to appear weak while secretly amassing troops on his flanks. When the enemy attacked his center, he launched devastating counterattacks from the flanks and routed the enemy army.

Speed and mobility

Another key aspect of Napoleon’s ability to think strategically was his emphasis on speed and mobility. He recognized that the ability to move quickly and decisively was essential to achieving victory on the battlefield. He made innovative use of artillery, cavalry, and infantry to create a highly mobile and flexible army that could strike at the enemy’s weak points and exploit their mistakes. His famous campaign in Italy in 1796-97 saw him outmaneuver and defeat much larger Austrian armies through lightning-fast movements and surprise attacks.

Master logistics and supply

Napoleon was also a master of logistics and supply, recognizing the importance of maintaining a well-fed, well-equipped army. He established efficient supply chains, rationed food and supplies, and made sure his soldiers were properly clothed and equipped. He understood that a hungry, tired army was not an effective one and made sure his troops were well-rested and fed before major battles.


Perhaps one of Napoleon’s greatest strengths as a strategist was his ability to adapt to changing circumstances. He was constantly adjusting his tactics and strategies in response to new information and changing conditions on the battlefield.
One example of Napoleon Bonaparte’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances can be seen during the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. The battle took place in the Czech Republic and was fought between the French army, led by Napoleon, and the combined forces of Russia and Austria.

Napoleon initially planned to attack the Russian army head-on, but as he surveyed the battlefield, he noticed a flaw in the enemy’s deployment. The Russians had weakened their center to strengthen their flanks, leaving a gap in their line.
Napoleon quickly adapted his strategy and decided to exploit this gap by sending his troops to attack the weak center of the Russian line. The move proved successful, and the French were able to break through the Russian center and divide their army.

By adapting to the changing circumstances on the battlefield, Napoleon was able to achieve a decisive victory at Austerlitz. This flexibility and ability to think on his feet were key characteristics that made Napoleon a master strategist.
Overall, Napoleon Bonaparte’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances was a significant factor in his success as a military leader. By constantly evaluating the situation and adjusting his strategy accordingly, he was able to achieve victory in some of the most challenging battles in history.

Be bold and decisive

Napoleon was known for his daring and decisive actions on the battlefield. He believed in taking risks and acting quickly, even if it meant going against convention or taking a gamble. His audacious tactics often caught his enemies off-guard and gave him an advantage.

Understand your enemy

Before going into battle, Napoleon always took the time to study his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. He would analyze their tactics, strategies, and psychological makeup. By understanding his enemy, Napoleon was able to exploit their weaknesses and gain the upper hand.

Utilize your resources effectively

Napoleon was skilled at maximizing his resources on the battlefield. He would use his troops strategically, positioning them in the most advantageous locations and making the most of their strengths. He also made effective use of artillery and other weapons, using them to devastating effect.

Plan for the long term

Napoleon was a master of strategy because he understood the big picture. He was able to see beyond the immediate challenges and keep his eye on the ultimate goal. He was not just a tactical genius; he was also a master strategist. He always had a long-term plan in mind, and he would carefully consider the consequences of his actions. He knew that victory was not just about winning battles, but also about achieving long-term goals.

Lead from the front

Napoleon was not afraid to lead from the front, and he would often put himself in harm’s way to inspire his troops. He was a charismatic leader who commanded respect and loyalty from his soldiers, and he knew how to motivate them to fight for him.

Understand the importance of morale

Napoleon understood that the morale of his troops was crucial to his success, and he was always looking for ways to boost their spirits. He would often visit his troops in the field, and he was known for his inspiring speeches.

Bottom line: Napoleon Bonaparte’s success as a military strategist was the result of a combination of factors, including his ability to surprise and outmaneuver his enemies, his emphasis on speed and mobility, his attention to logistics and supply, and his willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. He was a master of deception and innovation, always looking for new ways to gain an advantage on the battlefield. His legacy as a strategist and leader is still felt today, and his lessons continue to inspire and inform military and business leaders around the world.