Lessons on Leadership by Terror

Lessons on Leadership by Terror

Finding Shaka Zulu in the Attic

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

Lessons on Leadership by Terror attempts to discover what happens to people when they acquire power, and whether the abuse of power is inevitable. Manfred Kets de Vries examines the life of the nineteenth-century Zulu king Shaka Zulu in order to help us understand the psychology of power and terror

Chapter 1: A School for Tyranny: Learning from Hardship, Betrayal and Humiliation

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

Subjects: business and management, business leadership, politics and public policy, leadership


Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable. (Plato, Laws) For where no hope is left, is left no fear. (John Milton, Paradise Regained) Man, who wert once a despot and a slave; A dupe and a deceiver; a decay; A traveler from the cradle to the grave From the dim light of this immortal day. (Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound) And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. (The Holy Bible, Book of Samuel) The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell. (Bertrand Russell, On the Value of Skepticism) What canst thou know of happiness, If in the vale of misery thou hast not walked? What canst thou know of freedom, If against bondage thou hast not cried aloud? (Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Song of Life) The early life of Shaka sounds like many a mythical tale of triumph over misfortune and adversity. According to the ‘formula’ for such tales, the hero faces severe hardships and obstacles, overcoming each in turn before coming into his own (Campbell, 1949; Rank, 1932). These obstacles prepare the persevering struggler for his future role as leader. The tale of Shaka closely follows that formula: Shaka endured significant adversities, including expulsion and exile, performed heroic deeds that saved his people from disaster,...

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