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 7: Paranoia – The Disease of Kings: Exercising Caution Beyond the Bounds of Danger

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

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


In every tyrant’s heart there springs in the end This poison, that he cannot trust a friend. (Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound) To his friends he [Solon] said, as we are told, that a tyranny was a lovely place, but there was no way down from it. (Plutarch, Solon) At one of his more sumptuous banquets he [Caligula] suddenly burst out into a fit of laughter, and when the consuls, who were reclining next to him, politely inquired at what he was laughing, he replied: ‘What do you suppose, except that at a single nod of mine both of you could have your throats cut on the spot?’ (Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, Caligula) Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. (Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses) Distrust that man that tells you to distrust. (Ella Wheeler Wilcox, attributed) O God, save me from those who, crawling on their knees, hide a knife that they would like to sink in my back. But how can God help? All the people surrounding the Emperor are just like that – on their knees, and with knives. It’s never comfortable on the summits. An icy wind always blows, and everyone crouches, watchful lest his neighbor hurl him down the precipice. (Ryszard Kapuscinsky, The Emperor) Even a paranoid can have enemies. (Henry Kissinger, Time) The word ‘character’ is derived from the Greek...

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