From self-absorbed dictators obsessed with their own longevity, lazy-bone presidents who would rather snooze away than keep vigil of the country, to young emperors who were so coddled they could no longer stand the showers of praise anymore. These historical personalities did not leave much to be desired in terms of their work performance.
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1. Emperor Wan Li
Few people become emperors by the time they are 9 years old, but Emperor Wan Li of the Ming dynasty in China was among those lucky ones. However, he was an unhappy emperor. Blame it on his juvenile predisposition, but Emperor Wan Li was so fed up with his pampered life and the worshipping he received from his concubines, mother and government officials that he refused to perform his official duties for close to three decades. He even failed to attend his mother’s funeral! In the last 30 years of his rule, the young and depressed emperor descended into a life of utter gluttony and debauchery. His unfathomable laziness and inability to lead caused the Ming Empire to fall in 1644.
2. Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, but it did not end well for him. He is remembered for his piousness, yet his close relationship with God did not help him avoid the trail of bad decisions he made. In the end, his ill-informed decisions brought over three centuries of Romanov rule to an end and led to the murder of his wife and children.
The list of his bad decisions is long, but the ones that top the pole include taking an ill-prepared country like Russia to war with Japan and appointing Pyotr Stolyopin, an incompetent bureaucrat who was responsible for hanging peasant farmers, as Prime Minister. Nicholas also refused to step down thinking he had been divinely appointed to rule Russia and ultimately caused the collapse of the entire empire.
To some, Hitler’s audacity may seem commendable, but in truth this monster of a leader made silly mistakes and many bad decisions. The defeat of Germany in the Second World War can be directly attributed to Hitler - because he rejected advice from the German military and experienced officials. Instead, he made his own decisions and fumbled his way through the war, which ended in a bitter defeat and more than 250,000 soldiers dead. He also wasted millions of dollars trying to accumulate lethal weapons, but many of the weapons he ordered to be constructed or purchased did not work. Truly a masterclass in ruining a country.
4. Kim-Ill Sung
The Interview is the closest most regular people will come to the isolated and mysterious country of North Korea. Yet, this is home to the almost hilarious but tragic dictatorship of the young Kim Jong-un, who is quite the replica of his granddad, Kim-Ill Sung, a historical dictator in his own right. During his reign, ol’ granddad, the ‘Eternal President’, was so obsessed with living to 100 years he created a Longevity Center where researchers were ordered to find a cure for old age.
In an attempt to defy death, he chose his own treatment methods, which included laughing at cute kids and having his blood transfused with blood from young, vibrant twentysomethings. All this while, North Koreans were (and still are) dying out of starvation due to his insane economic policies.
5. Warren G Harding
Harding was one of the ‘baddest boys’ in history to become a U.S. president before he dropped dead out of a cerebral hemorrhage while in office. As the 29th president, he surrounded himself with a powerful but incompetent old boys’ club that literally made decisions for him. For example, after the First World War, he hired a man he had met while on vacation to be the head of the Veteran’s Bureau. President Harding often complained of feeling overwhelmed and under-qualified for the presidency and spent a significant amount of his time on vacation rather than at work.
6. Mobutu SeseSeko
The mention of President Mobutu of Zaire sends creepy shivers down the spine and a tinge of disgust too. He ruled the Congo for 32 years, changing his name from Joseph Desire Mobutu to Mobutu SeseSeko Kuku NgbenduwazaBanga, a mouthful that roughly translates to the ‘all-powerful warrior.’ During his reign, he forbade Congo citizens from lightening their skin, playing foreign music or using Christian names. Meanwhile, the brutal dictator plundered the country’s silver and gold deposits, took over foreign-owned companies and acquired vast tracts of land, making them his own.
7. Calvin Coolidge
The 30th President of the United States was aptly known as ‘Silent Cal’ for his reluctance to speak not only to the press but also to his own staff and congressmen.The infamous lazy-bones president opted for a hands-off approach to one of the most precarious jobs on earth—the presidency. When you have to be dragged out of bed to attend your own inauguration as president, the future sure looks bleak for the country.
But that was Coolidge’s style; he would take long afternoon naps, pajamas and all. Being the minimalist politician that he was, he took a passive stance in terms of policy and economic reforms as the Great Depression approached. He left office right at the end of his first term and never bothered to vie for a second term.
8. Idi-Amin Dada
The euphemism the ‘Butcher of Uganda’ only modestly describes the brutality and economic rot President Idi-Amin Dada of Uganda unleashed on the country. Amin came to power in 1971 through a military coup, and although he only ruled for 8 years, close to half a million people are said to have died, been tortured or disappeared under his reign.
Not only did he rule with a bloody iron fist; he also brought the Ugandan economy to its knees by chasing the Asian population who largely contributed to the civil service, manufacturing and trade industries. Amin’s cronies took over the businesses that were left behind.
Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar, also known as Caligula, was the son of Emperor Augustus’ adopted and popular son, Germanicus. For all his father’s popularity, Caligula hardly took after him. Instead, during his reign, between A.D. 37 and 41, the young emperor engaged in a life of extravagance, going as far as confiscating the estates of influential officials to pay for his debauchery. He made prostitutes out of the official’s wives and opened a brothel inside the palace for his raunchy escapades. In his craze and obsession with power, Caligula appointed his horse as a Senator. All this while, he watched his empire lose its grip as it faced numerous threats from internal and external rivalry.
10. Ferdinand Marcos
In the 2011 Time magazine, Ferdinand Marcos was listed as one of the top 15 dictators to be out-thrown by their own people. Marcos was known for highhanded brutality, which saw anyone who criticized the regime killed, disappeared or detained indefinitely. The president enforced martial law in 1972, imposing himself as the unchallenged leader of the Philippines. His wife, Imalda, sure took advantage of the dictatorial rule to glamorize herself excessively and is known to have owned closets of shoes. At the start of Marcos’ rule, the Philippines was the second richest country in Asia. But at the end of his dictatorship the country earned the nickname ‘sick man of Asia’ due to the economic rot it had succumbed to.
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A touch of firmness and a bit of laziness may be allowed on the job, occasionally. But, too much of it can become detrimental—like these historical figures, you could lose your job or worse still suffer a fateful end. It’s perhaps more prudent to be disciplined than be grandiose or malevolent while on the job.
Do you know any other people who should be on this list that we missed out? Let us know in the comments section below...