Genius, creativity and leadership

Authored by: Dean Keith Simonton

The Routledge Companion to Creativity

Print publication date:  November  2008
Online publication date:  November  2008

Print ISBN: 9780415773171
eBook ISBN: 9780203888841
Adobe ISBN: 9781135978488


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In 1804, Ludwig van Beethoven completed the composition of the famous Third Symphony, now known as the Eroica (‘Heroic’). Initially dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, who the composer greatly admired as the champion of freedom, Beethoven had a sudden change of heart upon learning that Napoleon had just crowned himself Emperor of the French. Beethoven immediately obliterated his hero’s name from the title page – so violently that it left a hole in the paper of the original score. A couple of years later, when Beethoven just heard that Napoleon had won the great battle at Jena, the composer exclaimed ‘It’s a pity that I do not understand the art of war as well as I do the art of music, I would conquer him!’ (Forbes 1967: 403). Of course, Napoleon could no more have composed Beethoven’s Third Symphony than Beethoven could have defeated Napoleon at Jena. Their respective domains of achievement are too far apart. Beethoven was a creator, Napoleon a leader. Creativity and leadership appear too different to be considered comparable phenomena.

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