Why is Napoleon a bad leader in Animal Farm?

Napoleon is a bad leader in Animal Farm because he's selfish and has no consideration for the other animals. Instead of working hard to make life better for everyone, he's more concerned with acquiring power for himself.

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By anyone's standards, Napoleon in Animal Farm is a very bad leader indeed. If a good leader is someone with a sense of mission higher than themselves, someone capable of galvanizing others together in pursuit of a common purpose, then this lazy, despotic pig most certainly doesn't fit the bill.

Napoleon may pay lip-service to the principles of Animalism, but that's about it. Whatever else may be said about it, Animalism is, at face value, a noble creed that seeks to build a fair and equal society in which everyone pulls together for the common good.

But the very idea is anathema to the incorrigibly selfish Napoleon, who, unlike Old Major, sees the Animalist revolution as an opportunity to grab whatever he can get his greedy trotters on, whether it's political power, a comfy bed, or Mr. Jones's alcohol.

As Napoleon's only in it for himself, he's unable to lead the other animals in a common endeavor. All he can do is terrorize them to get what he wants. But Napoleon's capacity for terror and violence doesn't make him a strong ruler; quite the opposite, in fact. Indeed, one could argue that Napoleon's despotic rule is a convenient way of covering up his numerous shortcomings as a leader.

When it comes to the crunch, in those moments when leadership really matters, Napoleon's missing in action. Take the Battle of Cowshed, for instance. Here, the animals were engaged in an epic fight to defend the Animalist revolution from the hated human oppressor.

But Napoleon was nowhere to be seen. If there was a hero that day, it was Snowball, Napoleon's bitter rival. No wonder that once Napoleon's sends Snowball packing from the farm, he cynically rewrites history to make it seem as if he were the hero of the hour.

As well as being lazy and selfish, then, he's also a proven coward, someone who runs away when the going gets tough. These characteristics combine to make Napoleon a bad leader.

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In George Orwell’s novel, more than any other character, Napoleon embodies the idea that power corrupts. He is a bad leader because he is selfish, manipulative, and power-hungry. Because we learn little of the backstory leading up to the revolution, we can only speculate about the “why” behind Napoleon’s poor leadership. That is, Orwell does not tell us if Napoleon was a more community-spirited pig when he was just one more oppressed farm animal among many. Once he gained a leadership position, however, the pig clearly enjoyed its benefits.

As he became more interested in building himself up, he also decided that meant tearing others down—thus the exile of Snowball. His own insecurity and suspicion that others would do exactly the same motivate him to suppress dissent. The idea of a healthy democracy in which different points of view are evaluated does not appeal to him. Consolidating control and enforcing his dominance, such as with the violent canine corps, becomes an end in itself. The constant vigilance he must exert in securing his position leaves Napoleon no time to apply to effective leadership.

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Napoleon os a bad leader for a number of reasons. He is a brutal and callous dictator.

Napoleon and Snowball were both instrumental in the animals' revolt, but Napoleon does not want to share the credit. He steals Snowball's idea to build a windmill. Snowball is eventually banished from the farm when Napoleon accuses him of trying to sabotage the revolution, and animals that supported Snowball are killed on Napoleon's orders.

Napoleon trains puppies to be his special police forces. These forces terrorize the farm and protect Napoleon from any and all threats—both real and imagined.

Napoleon controls the economy and collects all the produce. He lives like a king while most of the other animals barely have enough to eat. He ruthlessly exploits the animals and convinces them their sacrifices are needed for the revolution, but the animals are worse off than before the revolution.

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Napoleon is a malevolent leader because he becomes a dictator. For, as such he defeats the entire purpose of the animal's rebellion against the selfish Mr. Jones. Chapter 5 portrays Napoleon as a dictator:

Napoleon, with the dogs following him, now mounted on to the raised portion of the floor where Major had previously stood to deliver his speech....Sunday Meetings would come to an end. They were unnecessary, he said, and wasted time. In future all questions relating to the working of the farm would be settled by a special committee of pigs, presided over by himself. These would meet in private and afterwards communicate their decisions to the others

In fact, with Napoleon as their leader, the animals are worse off than they were with Jones:

  • Unlike Snowball, who designs a windmill which will alleviate the work of the animals, Napoleon increases their work.
  • He changes policies.  In Chapter 6, for instance, Napoleon announces that Animal Farm will engage in trade with the neighboring farms where there are, of course, humans. 
  • He rewrites the Seven Commandments and eliminates the anthem, Beasts of England, contending that the Rebellion is now completed and the song has no purpose. Singing the anthem is forbidden.
  • Squealer interprets events for the animals. He is the head of Napoleon's propaganda.
  • Some animals are accused of being traitors and are executed.
  • Napoleon tricks Boxer into going into a truck that supposedly will take him to a hospital when he is really transported to the glue factory.
  • He enforces his wishes through brutality; his ferocious dogs attack anyone who dissents. Thus, he rules by military force as most dictators do.
  • He does no work himself, and he goes to live in the house and sleeps on the beds. Napoleon even drinks and walks on two legs. Clearly, he places himself above the other animals.


As a dictator, Napoleon is mainly concerned about consolidating his power, eliminating those that oppose him, and controlling the information that the common animals get in order to be sure that they yet believe he is benevolent.

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