The so-called War of the Seventh Coalition, which included the Battle of Waterloo, pitted Napoleon Bonaparte and the armies of France against the combined armies of Europe, most notably from Britain, Prussia, and the Netherlands. This famous and well-documented period of European and military history aptly demonstrates the challenges of leadership and team building faced not only by Napoleon and his marshals, but also by the international coalition arrayed against him. Also known as the Hundred Days War (les Cent Jours), the war marked the period between Napoleon’s return from exile and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII. Although Napoleon’s last gasp occurred during this time, this period witnessed his brilliance and limitations as a leader and, equally, the strengths and weaknesses of the coalition command opposing him.
This rich and engaging battlefield metaphor provides an ideal setting within which to discuss many leadership themes, including the importance of establishing a climate of commitment and readiness, building and effectively sustaining teams of leaders, balancing a sense of strategic opportunity with the calculation of immediate tactical risks, leveraging the power of technological change, maintaining a sense of order in the chaos of a rapidly changing situation, and creating an environment that fosters initiative and ownership.