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The Leadership Qualities Of Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz

2772 words (11 pages) Essay in History

5/12/16 History Reference this

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As it is in the Army Doctrine Publications Volume 2, there is no unique formula for describing right combination of qualities required for commanders. for example, Clausewitz once described two ‘indispensable’ qualities of command: “First, an intelligence that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to the truth and second the courage to follow this faint light wherever it may go’.

To be a successful commander it is required to measure balance of cerebral, moral and physical qualities those of intellect, character and temperament. These key qualities are applies to both high command and battle command in deferent intensities as per the higher the level of command. The foundation of successful command is good leadership, professional knowledge, integrity and example. Theses major qualities are cut and polish by other supportive qualities as, morale and the General ship, technical knowledge, general knowledge, the current knowledge vision and intellect, judgement and initiative etc.

There are accepted leadership qualities in management theories and the leadership style theories. After many comprehensive studies and researches by professional scholars in the field of leadership styles following qualities are accepted as qualities of the leaders and many of great leaders were in the world proved themselves by having many of those qualities with them.

a. Vision

b. Commitment

c. Courage

d. Honesty and Loyalty

e. Risk Taking

f Initiative

g Self confidence

Emerging a leader is not a coincidence and as per the theories about the leadership and leadership styles followings are the accepted leadership styles and many of the great leaders in various fields is one from followings.

a. leader by position achieved

b. leader by personality /charisma

c. leader by morale example

d. intellectual leaders

e. leaders by birth

Karl Doenitz is a German naval officer and became a grand admiral of the German navy due his dedication to the profession. According to above classification it is no doubt we all know grand admiral Karl Doenitz is a leader by position achieved and when studying his biography following leadership qualities can be seen throughout in his naval carrier and the personnel life. As it describe in army doctrine publication volume two it is very difficult to understand individual’s leadership qualities evaluating one particular action or decision in instance of life journey of great leaders. Hence to better understanding and come to an accurate judgement the leadership qualities shown during the higher position of the naval carrier and the duration of presidency it is critically evaluated grand admiral Karl Doenitz’s leadership qualities for better understand of the leader.


Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz is the father of a U boat concept of German naval war fighting tactic during World War two. The idea came to his mind during World War one when he was a POW in British custody. He visualised the future of war while in the detention camps of the British’s as a POW and he named the tactics of U boats as “wolf pack” which means attack as group to a target. While in custody in enemy visualizing the future of warfare of the enemies point of view is shown his dedication for his profession. This is not only the occasion that Grand Admiral showed his ability to visualise the future of the war accurately with the valid reasons.

Surrender to the Americans at the latter part of the second world war was the other significant incident .Saving life’s of the thousand of German soldiers and people was the priority of the grand admiral after German lost the leadership of Hitler and the continuous defeats of Germans by allied forces. Other than that he saw the consequences of surrendering to the Russians will bring them worst results rather surrendering to the Americans. To avoid German fall in to the Russians hand grand admiral Karl Doenitz sent Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedberg to sign agreements with American for unconditional surrender to the Americans.

Adolf Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States, Doenitz immediately planned for implementation of Operation Drumbeat. This targeted shipping along the East Coast of the United States. Operation Drum beat Carried out by the U-boats and it had dramatic and far-reaching results. The U.S. Navy was entirely unprepared for antisubmarine warfare this operation drumbeat showed the Grand Admiral vision on the operation strategies of German navy and the intellectual ability of grand admiral Karl Doenitz achieving end state through tactical surprise was the objective of the vision of those applied u boat concepts.

Karl Doenitz believes that he can gain advantage damaging British fuel supply line of merchant tankers by attacking them from its wolf pack concept. the end of 1942 the production of Type VII U-boats had increased to the point where Doenitz was finally able to conduct mass attacks by groups of submarines a tactic he called “Rudel” (group or pack) and became known as “Wolf pack” in English. Allied shipping losses shot up tremendously, and there was serious concern for a while about the state of British fuel supplies. Finally it was successes and it was almost keeping British fleet inside the harbours without fight a single battle.

“Fighting to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the supreme skill. However the break the enemy’s resistance without fighting is the supreme skill”- Sun Tzu

When studying of the leadership qualities of the Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz it was observed that vision and the intellectual qualities was there in his life and most of the time he was successes in his decision making due to these qualities.


Courage is a vital quality which required by all leaders to achieve end state of operations regardless of rank or responsibilities. Physical courage is one of the greatest moral virtues and characterizes all good leaders. But for higher commanders it is not sufficient on its own the demands of warfare also call on their moral courage to take an unpopular decision and stick by it in the face of adversity. Command at higher levels is not about taking expedient short- term solutions to tactical problems. It requires a commander to take the longer-term operational level view in the interest of his campaign objectives commensurate with the need to motivate and sustain his force.

Unconditional surrender to the American forces is one of the great difficult decision that grand admiral Karl Doenitz had to taken in his life. After many war campaigns led by the Adolf Hitler the German were there in the battle win motivated minds even in the latter part of the second world war in spite of so many defeated by them .Many military leaders even not agree with grand admiral Donitz decision to surrender. But he had courage to get an unpopular decision on behalf of the future of the nation of him.

As per the last will of German leader Adolf Hitler grand admiral Karl Doenitz was nominated as the successor of the German leader after the Hitler. In a critical time taken over the responsibility of nations is a great difficult step of a leader but grand admiral Karl Doenitz took the challenge and led the nation in the distress time. Without refusing the responsibility he was made a nationwide radio address in which he spoke of Hitler’s death and announced that the war would continue “to save Germany from destruction by the advancing Bolshevik enemy.” However, Doenitz knew even then that Germany’s position was untenable and that the German was no longer capable of offering meaningful resistance. During his brief period in office Doenitz devoted most of his efforts to ensuring the loyalty of the German armed forces and trying to ensure German troops would surrender to the British or Americans and not to the Soviets. He feared Soviet reprisals against Germans and high-ranking officers like himself and planned to surrender to western Allies.

Battle of Atlanta which fought in Atlantic Ocean with allied naval forces since 1939 to 1945 is the significant battle that can observe the courage of the leader and his ability to motivate his subordinates to fight far distance battles from the mother land and the many years with the huge resistance from the enemy.

In some difficult times in battle of Atlanta once the allied forces were able to decode secrets messages to U boats from the command and U boats were under heavy attack of enemy. At that time admiral was seeks support from the German Air force but he was not supported by his sister service. Even though there were many resistance from outside and inside itself admiral was not change his stand but tactics on enemy till he finish the war and it shows the courage and braveness of the admiral.


The setting of high standards of conducts, based on professional ethics and personal mores, is a requirement of all commanders. Values such as moral courage, honesty and loyalty are indispensable in any leader.

There is nothing to need review for finding out the qualities of honesty and the integrity of grand admiral Karl Doenitz. Even though there is many senior and closely associated military leaders were with the German leader Adolf Hitler he didn’t saw honesty and the loyalty from them as that Garand admiral had it with him .it was the main reason to nominated grand admiral Karl Doenitz as the successor of the Hitler in his last will.

Hitler believed the leaders of the German Army and Air Force had betrayed him. Since the German Navy had been too small to affect the war in a major way its commander Doenitz, became the only possible successor more or less by default. – Wikipedia


Commitment to the duty and to the nation is significant in the naval carrier of grand admiral Karl Doenitz. Even he is under custody of the British’s he never thoughts of anything other than the German U boat submarine fleets and its tactics of “wolf pack” to defeat enemy naval forces.

Even latter in second world war when he was commanding submarine fleet he his personal attention of the deployment of the submarine and the mission was assigned to them were personally inspected by the grand admiral Karl Doenitz .Doenitz was deeply involved in the daily operations of his boats, often contacting them up to seventy times a day with questions such as their position, fuel levels and other operational matters.

On 27 May 1916 Doenitz married a nurse named Ingeborg Weber, the daughter of a German general. They had three children daughter Ursula sons Klaus and Peter both sons were killed during the Second World War. The younger son Peter was a watch officer on U-954 and was killed on 19 May 1943. Klaus was killed on 13 May 1944 while taking part in an action. In 1937 Karl Doenitz’s daughter Ursula married the U-boat commander. Commitment to the nation is no need to further elaborate once goes through the family life and the children of the great leader.

After the service of on board of cruiser 1916 he was placed in command of an air field at the Dardanelles but he was voluntarily requested transfer to the submarine service and this was an exemplary act of his commitment to his objective and dedication to his nation.


“This took me completely by surprise. Since 20th July 1944 I had not spoken to Hitler at all except at some large gathering. I had never received any hint on the subject from anyone else. I assumed that Hitler had nominated me because he wished to clear the way to enable an officer of the Armed Forces to put an end to the war. That this assumption was incorrect I did not find out until the winter of 1945-46 in November when for the first time I heard the provisions of Hitler’s will. When I read the signal I did not for a moment doubt that it was my duty to accept the task it had been my constant fear that the absence of any central authority would lead to chaos and the senseless and purposeless sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives. I realized that the darkest moment in any fighting man’s life, the moment when he must surrender unconditionally, was at hand. I realized that my name would remain forever associated with the act and that hatred and distortion of facts would continue to try and besmirch my honor. But duty demanded that I pay no attention to any such considerations. My policy was simple to try and save as many lives as I could” Institute for historical review grand admiral Karl Doenitz: last president of a united Germany

Above referred quotation of grand admiral Karl Doenitz is giving us the impression of the risk that he took to save his nation and the country from the defeating battle with Russian. Unpopular decision always hated the leader by his followers and some time he will be ignored by the nation for his wrong decision. The amount of risk that he taken to surrender unconditionally cannot be underestimate at any cost.

Operation drumbeat and the battle of St Laurence were extremely clandestine operations which planned by the grand admiral and those battle were fought in the enemy territorial waters and the inland waters of enemy land. These two missions implied the risk taking ability of grand admiral Karl Doenitz.


Identify the weakness of the enemy convoys in Atlantic Ocean, analyzed those and carried out underwater attacks to the enemy in unexpected time and locations created many chaotic conditions to the enemy and this caused hinder the enemy logistic movements in very badly. Finally U boats were targeted enemy tankers which carried fuel to the enemy. That was confined enemy battleships in to the harbours without fighting a single battle. Concept was successful in many years till enemy found an alternative to overcome the issue. This is a great example of leader’s initiative and ability to think far and correct decision making ability. These qualities were benefitted immensely for the victories and success of German operations.

Creating unrest and the causing damages to the image of the enemy forces is the aim of the battle St Lawrence which he sent his submarine forces to far end to Canada and in to the main land through St Lawrence River. To have a large an impact on an enemy as attacking them in their land clandestinely is grave damage to the enemy. These are significant examples for quality of initiative and ability to far thinking of grand admiral Karl Doenitz.


Self Confidence is linked to resolve and to professional knowledge in a justifiable confidence in one’s own ability. Self confidence is based on the firm rock professional knowledge and experience.

Self confidence is a significant leadership quality is shown by the Karl Doenitz from his early life of his naval carrier. He believed himself most of the time and that may be the reason he planned long distance operations like St Lawrence and operation drum beat. He was confidence in his men and men under him had a confidence on him as he was very much profession in his subject of U boats.

Most of the time he was isolated from the sister services due many internal frictions but he never gave up his missions and higher commanders orders even though there were difficulties. Sound knowledge of profession, knowledge of men under him, equipment and limitations, knowing the enemy and its capabilities are the good ingredients of self confidence. Being a U boat commander and the POW of allied he knew the enemy and its capabilities as he knew the A to Z of his U boat.

Even he was nominated as president of German unexpectedly he had a confidence of himself to perform duties as head of the country as it was bit alien to the naval duties. These actions showed the quality of self confidence of the grand admiral Karl Doenitz.

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