Leadership Styles of Snowball and Napoleon in Orwells Animal Farm

George Orwell’s classic tale of how the animals of Manor Farm start a rebellion against the humans is a satirical outlook on power play, politics and leadership. The two protagonists in the book are the pigs Snowball and Napoleon. This essay begins with attempts to study the distinctive leadership style of the two characters, how they were or were not able to hold their organization, the farm, together and move it towards the paths of success. It then critically analyzes the impact of these styles on organizational behavior and change. This is done by means of examples of various famous leaders and what their leadership did for the company. The essay details the requirement of a change leader and what he needs to do in general terms to ensure the change. The conclusion of the essay will try to bring in to focus the leadership style that is most favorable to change.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was published in 1945 during the time of The Second World War. The book is said to be a critic of Stalin’s rule in Russia. The political satire gives insight into two types of leadership – the democratic Snowball and the narcissist Napoleon. They were both leaders of the revolution that happened at the farm in the beginning of the story. Napoleon is seen as the quite one who spoke rarely and only when absolutely required. Snowball on the other hand was a charmer and was able to capture the attention of the crowd with his words. He was full of new ideas to improve the way of life in the farm. Snowball and Napoleon come out with “Seven Commandments” for their Animal Farm once the humans are run out. The most important of these were “all animals are equal” (Orwell, 1945).

Snowball was devoted to the commandments and encouraged the animals to follow it to the dot. He tries methods to improve the way the animals lived by starting various clubs and trying to teach the animals to read and write. Napoleon on the other hand just adopts a few pups and teaches them on private. No one in the farm knows what he is up to. A very important factor in their leadership of the farm was that they never agreed with each other. Whenever, Snowball came out with his elaborate schemes to improve farm life Napoleon stood against it. However, most of the time Snowball was able to win over the support of the animals with his charismatic personality and play with words. He was able to win them over with comforting talk and some amount of reasoning. He tried to get the animals involved in the decision making through a voting system and thus had a more participative approach to running the show.

Napoleon on the other hand preferred to dictate and direct things. He was not good at getting the animals on his side with his talk. Hence after running Snowball out of the farm with the blood hounds he had trained and by lying to the animals he establishes himself as the leader. He uses another pig called Squealer to speak on his behalf and mislead the animals into believing that everything Snowball did was harmful. Squealer was also used to tell great tales about Napoleon. Napoleon’s autocratic style of leadership, with lies and tales leading the show, leaves the animals confused. However, they carry on with their work more ardently than ever. He is a narcissist who makes the animals work mainly for his own benefit.

When a comparison is made between the kinds of leadership the two pigs portrayed big differences can be easily noticed. Snowball came out with good ideas but always presented it to the group for vote. He sells it to the group with his speeches. When one considers Blanchard’s leadership theory, Snowball will fall under the selling/consultative leadership style. He could also be called a transformational leader. According to Burns a transformational leader is one who is able to raise the entire group, including himself, into higher levels of morality, motivation and motives (Gill, 2006). That is exactly what Snowball did. He raised the motivational level of the farm animals with his inspiring speeches and led them to work and fight for liberty and the betterment of the farm in which he too actively participated. However, Snowball lacked muscle power. Napoleon with the strength of his dogs and a string of lies were able to overthrow Snowball. He clearly portrayed an autocratic and narcissist style of leadership. He was corrupt and with false pretenses he forced his decisions on the group. There was no voting or any suggestions taken from the animals. They were led to believe that everything that was happening was for their own good and made to do double work with lesser pay. Everything he did finally ended up in benefiting him and his gang of pigs and not the other animals of the farm. Though dictatorial and ruthless, Napoleon can be described as a transactional leader as well. Transactional leaders are considerably autocratic in their approach and do not believe in consulting with the staff to come to a decision. They define tasks and job profiles and reward workers on a contingent level. As such they are generally able to get compliance out of the staff but never commitment to the cause. Such leaders are able to bring about stability, just as Napoleon did, but cannot instigate the change that the organization actually requires (Daft, 2010).

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Which of the above mentioned leadership style is the key to bringing about change in the organization? Most management thinkers are of the opinion that real change in an organization is brought about by a transformational leader. This is the reason organizations actually employ people who are known for their transformational capabilities in leadership positions when it comes into a crisis and requires a total change to happen. Locke says that leaders are in one way or the other transactional in nature (Locke, 1999). This many not be always right. There are many leaders who are unable to achieve even the transactional level of leadership. The real difference as stated by Bass (2008) is that the transformational leader does a lot more – he ensures that the employees feel the need to work not just for the short term benefits of the company, but also towards the long term goals that could change the very face of the organization. The leader is thus able to lead them towards higher levels of success not only for the organization but also for themselves (Orwell’s Snowball). But Bass’s view tends to state that transformational leaders are always successful. Clegg et al (2002) says that this is not the case always. They quote a research in their book which states that context also plays a big role in success (Clegg et al, 2002). This is quite true, yet it can be said that transformational leaders run the extra mile to bring the context in as well.

A transactional leader’s importance in the company’s success cannot be undermined. He is ideal for maintaining the status quo and leading the company in its present state. Bass’s point that a transactional leader works with a focus on his self interest (Orwell’s Napoleon) and tries to make people work with contingent rewards than unconditional rewards is correct (Bass and Bass, 2008). He is more authoritarian in nature. This can be seen in the example of American Axle’s leader Dick Dauch. He was an authoritarian leader who bordered on narcissism. He was more interested in securing his and his family’s future. Though successful, his leadership focused on mainly one area of business and hence when there was a shift in the market condition the company was quite unprepared (Fortune, 2008). There are other examples of leaders who are leading successful enterprises, but not always in the paths of glory. United Parcel Service has a leadership pattern that is transactional in nature. The leaders at UPS aim at maintaining status quo and prefer for things to work they want. They employ an authoritative style to direct and get work done by the workers (Pride et al, 2010). Jim Donald, the former CEO of Starbucks, was not able to create any ripples. He tried to maintain status quo. His attempts to improve the company’s fortunes failed and he was sacked by the company. Howard Shultz, the company’s original transformational leader, stepped in and took reins to turn back the fortunes of the company (Fortune, 2011).

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An autocratic leader is quite similar to a transactional leader; however autocracy does bring in short term changes. Even though their style is demanding, bordering on dictatorship, and is known to cause resentment among the workers, it cannot be said that they lead failing enterprises. For example, Bobby Knight, the basketball coach of Texas Tech is known to be harsh and demanding to the team members and this includes allegations of choking a player (Harvard Business Review, 2008). He still leads a winning team. However their ability to manage change and adversity is questionable. For example, Stan O’Neal, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, always had an autocratic approach to managing the show. He was quite ruthless and eliminated executives who were a threat to him. However, his style was able to withstand only the good times. The moment there was a problem in the company he did not know what to do and how to bring about a turn around. He was later pushed out of his position by a hostile vote by the board of directors (Fortune 2010). The problem with such leadership is that it is not sympathetic towards change and for an organization to move forwards change is a very critical factor. This is where a transformational leader comes in. According to Bass and Riggo (2006), their main aim is company greatness as against their own and for this they are ready to take risks (Bass and Riggio, 2006).

The following are the points gathered from various sources as what transformational leaders do to bring about change in the organization:

Talk to the people and inspire them to work towards change and a collective vision (Lussier and Achua, 2010).

Make the employees question the current status of the organization and ask themselves what they can do to improve it.

Encourage innovation and distinctive thinking.

Give special attention to the performance at the individual, group and corporate level. A careful integration of all three is required for bringing about transformation.

Come forward and take the reins in a crisis with the intention of saving the organization and not for the self achievement.

Ensure that the change is instilled into the core of the organization so as to last.

Based on these things he does to achieve change in the organization the important variables associated with such a leader can be charted out. They are:

Positive Influence – Transformational leaders are positive influences on the group they are leading. Bass and Riggo (2006) in their book “Transformation Leadership” refers to this as “idealized influence” (Bass and Riggio, 2006). It means that the leader inspires the people in the organization to copy him in their work habits and emotions. He becomes their role model and they follow him in making the organization great.

Motivational Influence – Transformational leaders motivate the people to achieve greatness at the individual level as well as the corporate level. They motivate them to take risks and work ardently towards change in the organization.

Intellectual Influence – It is very essential to be intellectually stimulated to bring about innovative ideas and thus change. Beerel (2009) is right in stating that transformational leader intellectually stimulates the people in the organization by questioning the status quo and by looking at problems from different angles to come up with different solutions that the obvious (Beerel, 2009).

Thoughtful Influence – A leader who brings about change in the organization is generally considerate towards the feeling, capabilities and capacities of others. The people in an organization led by a transformational leader feel that they are cared for and considered as separate entities than a collective means to achieve a goal. This in turn influences them to worker harder towards change.

A few good examples of transformational leaders would clarify further the claims of many writers of how they affect change in a organization. Steve Rizley of Cox Communications, Arizona, took over the company when it was running losses for more than three years. He was pivotal in transforming the company into one of profit and growth. By encouraging the people to grow professionally as well as emotionally and intellectually, Rizley was able to convert the $700 million company into $1.3 billion in a little over two years since taking over (Bloomberg Businessweek, 2010). Yet another example is Proctor & Gamble’s CEO, A. G. Lafley. Though he met with failure in the beginning he trudged on and led P & G in to one of the most successful enterprises today (Harvard Business Review, 2011). Jack Welch reigned as CEO of General Motors (GM) for almost twenty years. During his tenure he set in the path to success and glory. Welch set a new corporate paradigm for GE that not only assured its success but that became a model for the world over. He is known to spend hours with his managers, cajoling them, coaching them and questioning them so that they think bigger and more differently (Business Week, 1998).

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It is quite obvious that transformational leaders are ideal for bringing about change in the organization. They are able to bring out the best in the employees and shine light in to new and improved ways to conduct business. They are able to ensure long term commitment to the betterment of the organization from others leading the way to greatness. All transformational leaders are transactional. But the same cannot be said about transactional leaders. Their lack of ability to adapt or change is a big hurdle in achieving greatness for the organization they work for. The company itself may be flourishing but at a status quo position with no real innovation happening. Autocracy and narcissism does result in change but these are short lived and there is no long lasting change happening in the organization other than what may be beneficial to the leader himself. Napoleon of Animal Farm was able to bring about small changes in the farm, however, in the end the benefits of these changes were only to him and to his fellow pigs. The other animals in the farm were more or less the same as before if not worse. This is quite so in the real world as well. Snowball was a visionary and more in line of transformation. However, he did not have the muscle power to bring in the transformation required. A transformational leader is able to face all kinds of adversities and lead the company to a path of glory. It is he who revolutionizes the people and the organization.


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