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French Business Leader And Descendant Of Napoleon Reflects On Leadership And Crisis In France

Prince Joachim Murat discusses the relevance of Napoleonic leadership and the state of France today.

No study of leadership can be complete without a reflection of the life and times of Napoleon Bonaparte. One leader is who has been studying Napoleon his whole life is Joachim Murat, Prince of Pontecorvo.

Murat is a seventh generation descendant of Joachim Murat, the King of Naples. The elder Murat earned his title as Napoleon’s greatest calvary commander who married Caroline Bonaparte, the Emperor’s sister. Joachim Murat is one of the best known royalists in France today. An accomplished business leader he has worked in industries ranging from cloud-computing to the defense industry. In those roles and others he has worked across the Former Soviet Union, Asia and elsewhere. He is also a former advisor to the French Ministry of Foreign Trade.

He spoke to Zenger News about the situation in France and about the continued relevance of Napoleonic leadership for today’s leaders.

French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a intermninisterial crisis unit (Cellule interministerielle de crise – CIC) meeting after riots erupted for the third night in a row across the country following the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed during a traffic stop in Nanterre by a French police officer, at the emergency crisis center of the Interior Ministry in Paris, France, June 30, 2023.  Macron has sparked protests by using Article 49.3 of the French constitution to pass legislation rather then normal parliamentary procedure. YVES HERMAN/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES 

Zenger News: French President Emmanuel Macron has sparked protests by using Article 49.3 of the French constitution to pass legislation rather then normal parliamentary procedure. He used this method to push through an increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64. What is your perspective not so much on his policies but, on the structure of the 49.3 rule?

Prince Joachim Murat: Article 49.3 of the French Constitution allows the government to pass a law without parliament’s consent but through a process that in effect triggers a vote of confidence. It was invented to avoid political stalemate due to the absence of a majority in the parliament. Should the parliament be against the use of 49.3 it can vote to dissolve the government. In the present situation, 49.3 has been used without triggering a vote of no confidence within parliament. As such it’s a perfectly legal procedure.

The problem with this procedure, while legal, is that it has lost its legitimacy. Polls show 70% opposition to the recent pension reform. Millions have been protesting for weeks in the street. Only a vote of the people’s representatives could have legitimated such an unpopular reform.

In not voting to dissolve the government in response to 49.3 lost a large portion of its legitimacy. It follows a long period of political crisis in France which began with the outburst of the “Gilets Jaunes” or “Yellow Jackets”. This is a serious democratic crisis that challenges the legitimacy of our institutions, our political leaders, and even our Republic itself. In France, we call it “une crise de régime”. We’ve known a few in our history.

ZN: Ofcourse that debate is part of a larger one about the state of the economy in France. As you have pointed out before in 1946, 35% of working people in France were entrepreneurs or self-employed. Today that figure is less than 10%. How can France revitalize entrepreneurship?

PJM: Access to funding and much more flexibility within the labor market are the key drivers to unleash entrepreneurial energy. We need also need a more daring banking system to support entrepreneurship. French banks are very reluctant to finance enterprise creation. The venture capitalism ecosystem in France is also very limited and access to funding remains inhibited.

A reduction in tax pressure and using public funding to support SMEs in a large way could trigger more courage in this regard. A DARPA-like model of mixed private-public funding of innovations should be adopted. In parallel, the labor market must be more flexible to allow businesses to adapt and evolve in a prosperous and resilient manner. The trick is to avoid the development of an “Uberized” labor environment. Some countries pride themselves on being a “Land of Entrepreneurs” where the reality is they are “Uberized” countries with a large precariously employed workforce. Getting the “work-flexibility balance” correct is the key to a prosperous nation in this century.

ZN: What role do referendums play in Bonapartism as an ideology? Is there something here business leaders should emulate as well?

PJM: The Napoleonic system can be described as a pyramid with the people at its base. Napoleon gave the nation a vision, a greater picture, a glorious horizon. The goal being making individuals proud of France and enhancing that feeling through the group. But this system came with costs and sacrifices. As such this way forward regarded constant validation by the people through referendums. That system was the foundation of the Napoleonic Empire – its sovereignty and legitimacy. If you want to gather individuals and unite them behind a common goal that improves their situation – you need a glorious vision and an underlying legitimacy. Napoleon had a vision, he built legitimacy through referendums and provided prosperity to the Nation and its people.

Business leaders should certainly get inspired by this example. Taking care of your employees and having a way to have regular feedback from them is important. But I am not sure that an electoral system can work in a corporate environment. History suggests efforts at this have not been very successfully. A company is not a democracy for sure but employees can leave it whenever they want. So, the most important effort here would probably be to give people pride in their work, defend its values and participate in the endeavor of a common greater goal. That requires very good leaders, not only managers.

ZN: You once said of Bonapartism is a “Philosophy of responsibility and resistance to mediocrity.” Do you also think those are more than just political principles, could be a philosophy for leaders as well

PJM: Absolutely. I even think that Bonapartism is a state of mind, an attitude in life more than just a political one. Seize opportunities, dare, and keep your head straight, that’s Bonapartism. Own your actions and all of their consequences, that’s Bonapartism. And, of course, add panache to it. Finding inspiration in figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Marshal Murat, Marshall Lannes, Surcouf the archetype corsair, or Eugène François Vidocq the secret agent. Knowing those biographies will provide you with the exact good dose of vitamins you need to start your day!


Edited by Rachmad Imam Tarecha and Joseph Hammond

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