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 9: Following the Leader: Colluding in Cruelty

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries


The world has heard of monsters – Rome had her Nero, the Huns their Attila, and Syracuse her Dionysius; the East has likewise produced her tyrants; but for ferocity, Chaka has exceeded them all; he has outstripped in sanguinary executions all who have gone before him, and in any country. (Nathaniel Isaacs, Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa) Like one that on a lonesome road Doth walk in fear and dread, And having once turned round walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows, a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) Fear has many eyes and can see things underground (Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote) Man’s inhumanity to man Makes countless thousands mourn. (Robert Burns, Man Was Made to Mourn) A revolution is not a dinner party … or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely. (Mao Zedong, remark, 1927) Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. (Harry S Truman, speech, 8 August 1950) Persecutory paranoia and paranoid grandiosity are common ingredients in the world of power and politics. These dysfunctional processes reach a grotesque level, however, in the case of tyrants. When a despotic leader takes charge of a country, the demons...

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