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 8: The Terrorist Mind: Protecting the Self by Victimizing Others

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries


Tyrants seldom want pretexts. (Edmund Burke, letter to a member of the National Assembly) Little by little we were taught all these things. We grew into them. (Adolf Eichmann, statement made at his trial) Fear is the parent of cruelty. (J.A. Froude, Great Studies on Great Subjects) The wish to hurt, the momentary intoxication with pain, is the loophole through which the pervert climbs into the minds of ordinary men. (Jacob Bronowski, The Face of Violence) In violence we forget who we are. (Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary) Of all the passions fear weakens judgment most. (Cardinal de Retz, Mémoires) The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity. (George Bernard Shaw, The Devil’s Disciple) Look out, look out, look out, that thing over there! Long have we been eating without growing fat, Today the house of Zulu emerges, Long have we been gnawing on maize cobs, Now the sun is rising, its rays are shining, The elephant is stabbing with all its rays, Look out, look out, that thing over there! (Ngidi, war song, The James Stuart Archive) As was noted earlier, there is considerable overlap from one character disorder to another. We have looked now at evidence of paranoia and excessive narcissism in Shaka Zulu. Two additional character-disorder descriptions resonate with what we know about Shaka and many other leaders who rule by terror: the antisocial and the sadistic personalities (Millon, 1986, 1996)...

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