Lessons on Leadership by Terror
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Lessons on Leadership by Terror

Finding Shaka Zulu in the Attic

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
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Chapter 3: Ruling by Fear: Bringing Enemies and Allies Alike to Submission

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries


When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader. (Plato, The Republic) Would that the Roman people had but one neck! (Caligula, from Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars) … [F]or within the hollow crown That round the mortal temples of a king Keeps Death his court, and there the antic sits, Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp; Allowing him a breath, a little scene, To monarchize, be fear’d, and kill with looks, Infusing him with self and vain conceit, As if this flesh which wall about our life Were brass impregnable; and humour’d thus Comes at the last and with a little pin Bores through his castle wall, and – farewell king! (William Shakespeare, Richard II) Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called. (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty) If I am unable to make the gods above relent, I shall move Hell. (Virgil, Aeneid) Shaka Zulu feared that he would not be truly paramount until he had finished off every enemy soldier and had ferreted out every potential insurrectionist from within his own ranks. He strove mightily to meet those goals. UNFORGIVING WARFARE WITHOUT AND WITHIN The Zulus, under Shaka’s leadership, took no prisoners. Unwilling to be slowed down by weak soldiers, Shaka also put the seriously wounded among his own men out of...

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