Part I Introduction

Structure of the book

Part II The Dictatorial CEO

Chapter 1 A Man
‘A Man’
Personal PR and the good press release If only the Tsar knew!
Chapter 2 The Power Personality
Self-belief Passion and focus
The crucial importance of will-power
Chapter 3 A Human Being
The human side of the dictatorial CEO Lonely at the top
Response to pressure and stress

Part III The Lieutenants

Chapter 4 Dictatorial CEO’s Choice of Lieutenants
Talent, gets things done Trust, loyalty and obedience
Flattery, servility, telling the dictatorial CEO what he wants to hear Dictatorial CEO has some fear of lieutenant
‘New faces’ and the ‘flaw in the weave’

Chapter 5 Why the Lieutenants Serve
Lieutenant’s respect, admiration and attribution Dictatorial CEO makes lieutenant feel personally needed Dictatorial CEO shows loyalty to lieutenant
Lieutenant is nothing without the dictatorial CEO Love of the country, the company, or the organisation.
Excitement, ambition, money, prestige, power to boss others

Chapter 6 Special Case of the Secretary/Gate-keeper
Becoming indispensable Dealing with other lieutenants Hostility of other lieutenants Try to rein-in, or suck-up?
But ultimately – only a ‘secretary’!

Part IV The Dictatorial CEO at Daily Work

Chapter 7 Evaluating and Monitoring Lieutenants
Management books Watching and testing

Chapter 8 Putting Basic Tools into Practice
Timing, and the importance of ‘ripening’ Playing cards close to chest
Pretence, acting and lying Persuasion and inspiration
Reminding the lieutenants who is top dog Using fear

Chapter 8 Putting Basic Tools into Practice
Timing, and the importance of ‘ripening’ Playing cards close to chest
Pretence, acting and lying Persuasion and inspiration
Reminding the lieutenants who is top dog Using fear
Divide and rule
Blame a lieutenant when things go wrong Lieutenants are not people, but things!

Part V The Daily Lives of the Lieutenants

Chapter 9 An Independent Life?
Surrendered lives
At the whim of the dictatorial CEO
Chapter 10 Reacting to the Dictatorial CEO
Trying to influence the dictatorial CEO Passivity and giving up
Serving up servility and words that please Disobedience and lies
‘New faces’ Fighting back

Chapter 11 Competition between Lieutenants
Taking aim at the competition and proving you are the best Taking the cue from the dictatorial CEO
Acting in the name of dictatorial CEO

Part VI Time and Tides

Chapter 12 Time and the Mind of the Dictatorial CEO
Mao Stalin Hitler Mussolini Ataturk Napoleon

Chapter 13. Dictatorial CEO Acts Against a Lieutenant
Big reshuffle as smokescreen Abolish the position
Pretending it’s a ‘management committee’ decision It’s a game of cat and mouse!
Marched out of the office

Chapter 14 The Dangerous Life of the Heir

Part VII Concluding Remarks



“There is a special trap for every holder of power, whether the director of a company, the head of a state, or the ruler of a dictatorship. His favour is so desirable to his subordinates that they will sue for it by every means possible. Servility becomes endemic among his entourage, who compete among themselves in their show of devotion. This in turn exercises a sway upon the ruler, who becomes corrupted in his turn. The key to the quality of the man in power is how he reacts to this situation.”

So wrote Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s ‘friend’, architect, Armaments Minister, and for a while the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany.

This book is about the relationship between the ‘holder of power’ and ‘his subordinates’ in organisations of all types, in all cultures and countries, and in all times. It is about intelligent, interesting and charming men who enjoy power so much that they always want more, and are ruthless in getting it; it is about other men, and women, who are charmed or cowed into submission, and accept this because they see an opportunity to better their own lives or the lives of others.

For some people – be they men or women – power is an end in itself: their primary motivation for seeking high office is to dominate other people, to be in charge, to be influential. There are other people who seek high office to assist in advancing certain – sometimes altruistic – goals and the organisation presents a way of achieving these; but once in power, they too begin to value power for its own sake. Given the opportunity, and time, they will also tend to become domineering.
Of course, there are lots of shades of grey, both in terms of motives for seeking power and the effect of power on those who hold it, but the tendency is always the same no matter what the ‘quality of the man’; power becomes a narcotic, which is seen as a deserved right, and which can only be satisfied and defended by obtaining more power.

The people who readily – consciously or unconsciously – allow themselves to be dominated, accept this subordinate position because of the advantages that come with it, and their acceptance reinforces the domination of those in power. This is not to say that the advantages to the ‘subordinates’ are always narrowly self-centred; like the ‘holder of power’, the ‘subordinates’ – at least initially – may have altruistic goals. Often, however, the ‘subordinates’ also have a desire to dominate other human beings, but accept that their own road to power involves submission to the existing ‘holder of power’.
The basic overall scene is always the same: the ‘subordinates’ become ‘servile’ to the ‘holder of power’, and the head of the latter is turned so that it can think of little else. It is the same in individual businesses, business associations, sporting clubs and associations, cultural and religious institutions, penal institutions, and government bodies of all types.

This book focuses on the relationship between six political dictators – in six different countries – and their senior ‘subordinates’ (whom we shall also call lieutenants) covering a period from 1799 to 1976. While each of these dictators had extreme power, it was not the case that they could manage by fear alone. Far from it! They were very effective executives – CEOs – who used the full range of tools for managing and manipulating people.

In some way – although not necessarily to the same extent, or in exactly the same form – all these tools are available to the CEO of any organisation. The very extent of the power held by these men, and the reactions of their lieutenants, helps us understand power-play in other organisational circumstances where things are more opaque. The high stakes in political dictatorships enhanced the focus of all involved; the players and observers watched and evaluated all that was around them with great care and intensity, and in doing so shed light on issues that might seem unimportant in a more relaxed organisational atmosphere.

The success of these men as ‘holders of power’ cannot be denied. Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin and Mustapha Kemal Ataturk died with their boots on; that is, in office and from natural causes. Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini could well have gone the same way had they maintained their focus on power within their own countries (organisations), but not content to dominate these, they over-extended themselves as they sought to dominate other countries, and failed.

This book, however, is not concerned with international (inter-organisational) relations, but with relations within organisations – and, most particularly between CEOs and their lieutenants. The reasons for the downfall of Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini are therefore only tangential to the main theme.

I have attempted to describe these dictatorial CEOs, their lieutenants, and their relationships using their own words and the words of their contemporaries. It relates what was seen, heard, said, reflected upon, and recorded by people who were there at the time. This has the advantage of making the issues and points more vivid to the reader. One disadvantage is that the people there at the time may not have accurately recorded events, may have misunderstood, or may have had reason to later distort the truth. While I have not avoided any historical controversies which have subsequently arisen, I have not attempted to offer any definitive judgements; rather, I have accepted that human relations are complex and that the reasons for actions and reactions can be multifaceted. Wrapped around what these people said and wrote is a necessary degree of historical context.

I have restricted my choice of dictators to those who were essentially self-made men. While none achieved their tremendous power without the assistance of others and the (often crucially important) circumstances of the time, it was their own will-power, self-belief, focus, intelligence, and ability to exploit the weakness of others which ultimately made them successful.

Unlike the son of the company founder, born to the position of CEO, the self-made man can afford few mistakes. As Napoleon told Count Metternich, the Austrian Foreign Minister, in 1813: “My reign will not outlast the day when I have ceased to be strong and therefore to be feared. … Your sovereign, who were born to the throne, can allow themselves to be beaten twenty time and will always return to their capital. But I cannot do that – I am a self- made soldier.”

As already noted, it should not be thought that it is only fear that keeps dictatorial CEOs in power. When the writer Emil Ludwig asked Stalin why “everybody” in his country feared him, Stalin rejoined:

“Do you really believe a man could maintain his position of power for fourteen years merely by intimidation? Only by making people afraid?”

The plain dictator is capable of ruthless and rapid decision making, and may rely on ‘fear’ alone for a short period, but the dictator who has longevity – as did Stalin and the other five men in this study – also has many other sides. One of these is that he is himself fearful. As Speer put it:

“To the imagination of the outsider Hitler was a keen, quick, brutally governing dictator. It is difficult to believe that in reality he edged along hesitantly, almost fearfully. But that was the case.”

This fear helps the dictatorial CEO survive because it makes him focus on what needs to be done to stay in power, and leads him to pursue the full range of options for doing this. But, as shall be seen, fear is only part of the complex and exciting (as well as depressing) game of power.

So, what did all these people – the self-made men, their lieutenants, and contemporaries – say or write? And, what does it all mean?
Napoleon spoke for the attitude of those who wish to (or come to wish to) dominate when he observed:

“In this world there are only two alternatives: command or obey”.

Napoleon became ‘the man in power’, the man to give commands, because he was able to take advantage of the willingness – and even desire – of others to ‘obey’. While some people seek to believe in a God in order to guide them and reduce their anxieties – and even ultimately take care of them. Many other people seek an individual human being to fulfil this role; and in doing so, tend to attribute to him almost God-like characteristics.

This book begins by discussing the God-like concept of ‘a Man’: the need for people to believe in someone special; the characteristics which allow one particular individual to become identified as ‘the Man’; and the factors which allow an individual to use this need to achieve, or to increase and consolidate, dictatorial power. The concept of ‘a Man’ is essentially about a particular type of ‘personality cult’.

Men and women who ‘obey’ will rarely express the choices as starkly as Napoleon; indeed the choices are not that black and white. Even if ‘servility’ is admitted – it rarely is, because it is hardly good for self-esteem or the approval of others – it will often be justified by the benefits that it brings to the organisation and its members: that is, for the greater good.

Irrespective of self-denial or excuses, the effect of ‘servility’ is the same and very real – and often very destructive. It produces and perpetuates a pervasive power imbalance. All six men in this study used the ‘servility’ of others to become and remain the ‘man in power’
– for over a decade in the cases of Napoleon and Hitler, and decades in the cases of Mao, Ataturk, Stalin and Mussolini. The ‘man in power’ will, in the process, become ‘corrupted’. In the words of Louis de Bourreinne who was Napoleon’s friend and first secretary:

“Intoxication which is occasioned by success … produces in the heads of the ambitious a sort of cerebral congestion”.

Success stokes “the fumes of glory and ambition”, wrote Bourreinne, and the man in power will seek even more power. He wants lieutenants to be, in the words of Benito Mussolini, no more than “electric light-bulbs which I turn on or off as I wish”.

Men and women who wish to dominate, to ‘command’ – either innately or having been ‘stoked’ – are focussed on ‘self’. Any other goals are tangential to the aims and ambitions of ‘self’. A British Ambassador said of Mussolini:

“His first consideration is Mussolini, his second is the fascist regime, his third Italy”.

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, the French Foreign Affairs Minister, was well aware of Napoleon’s aims and ambitions when he suggested to the newly appointed First Consul in 1799 that he directly control the important power Ministries of the Interior, the Police, Foreign Affairs and the Armed Forces, leaving the Second and Third Consuls to handle the Ministries of Justice and Finance. Tallyrand told Napoleon that this would “occupy and amuse them, and you, General (Bonaparte), having at your disposal all the vital parts of the government, will be able to reach the end you aim at”. Napoleon later said to Bourreinne: “What he advises you know I am anxious to do … he is right; one gets on quicker by one- self.”

Yet, obviously, ‘one-self’ cannot do everything nor control everything. The dictatorial CEO needs people – lieutenants – who are willing to ‘obey’; and these lieutenants then make others, further down the line, ‘obey’. Mussolini claimed that he was not a real dictator because his own will to command “coincided perfectly with the will of Italians to obey”.

But, what makes people willing to ‘obey’? Once again, Napoleon put it succinctly:
“There are two levers for moving men – interest and fear.”

The words ‘interest and fear’ – like carrot and stick – cover any individual people management tool that can be thought of. Napoleon knew that there was no shortage of people who had an ‘interest’ in being lieutenants; whether that ‘interest’ be in money, status, power over others, or a belief that by acting as a lieutenant they could further some noble goal for other people or the organisation or the country. He also knew that they would then ‘fear’ losing their positions, and all the benefits that came with those positions. Indeed, the lieutenants of some dictatorial CEOs may justifiably fear losing even more than they have gained; for having become lieutenants they have made enemies amongst others and they are now dependent on the ‘favour’ of the dictatorial CEO – they are no longer anonymous, but are now in his line of sight.

The mixture of ‘fear and interest’ used by the dictatorial CEOs varied, and each varied his own mix over time. In the cases of Stalin, Hitler and Mao, ‘fear’ could be that of death. However, this extreme event was not always the case, and with Napoleon, Ataturk or Mussolini – where it was rarely, if ever, the case – it was often a ‘fear’ of being excluded from the ‘interests’.

How did these dictatorial CEOs get control of these ‘levers for moving men’? How did they get there in the first place? Why did one particular individual succeed in becoming dictatorial?

Describing Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev stressed his superior ability:

“He didn’t simply come with a sword and conquer our minds and bodies. No, he demonstrated his superior skill in subordinating and manipulating people.”

The Yugoslavian politician, Milovan Djilas, who had close dealings with Stalin and his lieutenants from 1944, observed that Stalin “sized up people quickly and … was always particularly skilful in exploiting people’s weaknesses”. In the same vein,

Hitler was also a man of superior ability. Speer noted that he “knew men’s secret vices and desires, he knew what they thought to be their virtues, he knew the hidden ambitions and motives which lay behind their loves and hates, he knew where they could be flattered, where they were gullible, where they were strong and where they were weak; he knew all this … by instinct and feeling, an intuition which in such matters never led him astray.”

But the lieutenants also have some responsibility for handing over levers of control. Seeking the dictatorial CEO’s favour, they offer up the sort of ‘servility’ that Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, did one evening in 1943. Speer wrote that Goebbels used a “masterly brew” of “brilliantly … polished phrases” to “strengthen Hitler’s self-assurance and to flatter his vanity”. In such circumstances, the dictatorial CEO’s belief in the primacy of ‘self’ can only be boosted. The dictatorial CEO may also praise the lieutenants in order to bolster their sense of being special and needed, which in turn boots their loyalty. Speer wrote that Hitler “reciprocated by magnifying his Propaganda Minister’s achievements and thus giving him cause for pride”.

While there is such bonding in the executive suite, the lieutenants are at great risk of shooting themselves in the foot! Having attached themselves to the dictatorial CEO, the lieutenants recognise that they need him to maintain his position so that they may maintain their own. They will thus act to build him up in the eyes of others, but this also has other consequences. Djilas wrote:

“The deification of Stalin, or the ‘cult of the personality’, as it is now called, was at least as much the work of Stalin’s circle and the bureaucracy, who required such a leader, as it was his own doing. Of course, the relationship changed. Turned into a deity, Stalin became so powerful that in time he ceased to pay attention to the changing needs and desires of those who had exalted him.”

Thus, by working to boost the power of the CEO by building his image as ‘the Man’, the lieutenants boost his dictatorial power over themselves. They become even more dependent on him, while he becomes less dependent on them. As Speer said of Hitler’s inner circle: “One thing is certain, all his associates who had worked closely with him for a long time were entirely dependent and obedient to him.”

The lieutenants know that in dealing with them, the dictatorial CEO will ultimately let intellect overrule feelings – although there are rare exceptions. Bourreinne noted that “there was no unison between Bonaparte’s feelings and his judgment”. Napoleon told an obstreperous lieutenant: “For me men are instruments whom I use according to my pleasure.”

The dictatorial CEO should not necessarily be seen as standing for the status quo. Not only have the ‘fumes of glory and ambition’ been a factor in the conversion of CEO ‘success’ to dictatorial CEO status, but they are a driving force for further achievement. The dictatorial CEO will rarely be satisfied with all that he has. As Mussolini’s Foreign Minister and son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano, noted in his diary in 1939: “As usual with Mussolini, when he has obtained something, he always asks for more.” And, referring to Napoleon, Bourreinne wrote:

“His inordinate ambition goaded him on to the attainment of power; and power when possessed served only to augment his ambition.”

While ‘self’ is the prime focus of the dictatorial CEO, he is not so one dimensional that he has no other interests. Like everyone, he will need to believe in something. Djilas noted that in Stalin, “certain great and final ideals lay hidden – his ideals, which he could approach by moulding and twisting the reality and the living men who comprised it”. Mao’s doctor, Li Zhisui, wrote that Mao insisted “on policies that no one else had ever imagined, dangerous, risky policies like the Great Leap Forward, the people’s communes, and the Cultural Revolution, all of which were designed to transform China”.

The dictatorial CEO will often see himself and the ‘moulding and twisting’ of men in a very positive light. In 1937, Kemal Ataturk explained his position in these terms:

“Man, as an individual, is condemned to death. To work, not for oneself but for those who will come after, is the first condition of happiness that any individual can reach in life. Each person has his own preferences. Some people like gardening and growing flowers. Others prefer to train men. Does the man who grows flowers expect anything from them? He who trains men ought to work like a man who grows flowers.”

The dictatorial CEO regards ‘men’ as something akin to putty – to be ‘moulded and twisted’ into the form he desires.

With men, age and death are inescapable. All the dictatorial CEOs in this study changed over time – as individuals, in their relationships with others, and in the quality of their decision making. Chen Yuan, an early colleague of Mao, said:

“Had Mao died in 1956, his achievements would have been immortal. Had he died in 1966, he would still have been a great man. But he died in 1976. Alas, what can one say?”

And, Ciano, noted in his diary in 1941 that the aging dictatorial CEO can be somewhat sensitive about this: “The Duce (Mussolini) is exasperated by the publication in the magazine Minerva, published in Turin, of a motto by some Greek philosopher or other.” The motto read:

“No greater misfortune can befall a country than to be governed by an old tyrant.”

This book thus considers many issues: the need for ‘a Man’; the individual who grasps the mantle of ‘the Man’; the dictatorial CEO and his methods of control; the lieutenants and their daily lives in the executive suite; and the ravages of time on the individual who is both ‘a Man’ and the dictatorial CEO.

Finally, I have almost totally excluded discussion of those lieutenants who were part of the dictatorial CEO’s family, as there is always going to be a particular emotional side to such a relationship that is outside the scope of this study. Napoleon’s brothers and in-laws, for example, are only mentioned where it assists in evaluation of Napoleon’s relationship with his other lieutenants. The exceptions are Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, and Mussolini’s son-in-law, Count Ciano, who both were pivotal lieutenants at one time or another.


Having set the overall scene, we can know go on to look at the structure of the remainder of the book. The detailed discussion begins in Part II, ‘The Dictatorial CEO’, which is focussed on the personality of the individual who becomes the dictatorial CEO, and particularly the dictatorial CEO who is also ‘the Man’. Indeed, the first chapter is entitled ‘A Man’. There are also chapters on ‘The Power Personality’ and ‘A Human Being’. The lieutenants receive considerable attention in these chapters: after all, the CEO needs someone to dictate to, and the ‘the Man’ is only such if he has admirers. However, the lieutenants are not the focus of Part II.

Part III, ‘The Lieutenants’, looks more closely at the lieutenants, and in particular focuses on the basic sources of their relationship with the dictatorial CEO. It begins with Chapter 4, ‘Dictatorial CEO’s Choice of Lieutenants?’ which on the face of it may seem fairly straightforward, but there are the complex issues of ‘fear’ and of ‘new faces’.

The concept of a general need for ‘a Man’ is obviously important for the discussion in Chapter 5, ‘Why the Lieutenants Serve’. However, individuals can become and remain lieutenants of the dictatorial CEO even if they do not particularly see him as ‘the Man’: it may simply be that they know he has the levers of power; albeit less secure levers than if he was also seen as ‘the Man’. They may become and remain lieutenants almost simply – but rarely totally – because they want money, power, or status; or that they fear losing whatever they have.

The motivating factors in the relationships between the dictatorial CEO and his lieutenants are complex: no individual will be motivated by one thing, it will be some combination of factors; no two individuals will be motivated by the same combination of factors; and what motivates any individual in the relationship will change (at least to some degree) over time.

Napoleon once said of Talleyrand: “His own self-interest guarantees me his loyalty, much more than does his character.” Napoleon was pointing out that one of the reasons a dictatorial CEO keeps a lieutenant – that is, his ‘loyalty’ – may have less to do with the lieutenant’s direct attitude to the dictatorial CEO, and more to do with the use that the lieutenant believes that he can make of the relationship. So put, this seems obvious: but Napoleon thought that the point was worth making, because he knew that the ‘loyalty’ of some of his other lieutenants was more genuine, and that he had to know the difference if he wanted to manipulate them.

This is another example of the complexity – and circularity –of the relationship between the dictatorial CEO and his lieutenants; and, indeed, of any relationship between human beings. Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 are thus, in many ways, less independent of each other than might at first be thought.

Throughout this book there is an attempt to separate basic factors – what might be called underlying principles – of the dictatorial CEO-lieutenant relationship from the description of the working relationship in everyday practice. That is, basic factors are identified first, and then the daily operation of these is explored in later chapters.

The first chapter to break this rule is Chapter 6, ‘Special Case of the Secretary / Gate-keeper’. Gate-keepers are those lieutenants who generally have the official title of secretary (or executive secretary, or personal assistant), and control – to a greater or lessor degree – access to the dictatorial CEO. While they are lieutenants, in some ways they are also virtual appendages to the dictatorial CEO, and this makes their position in the executive suite unique. This is particularly so when one considers the powerful roles played by Bourreinne and Martin Bormann. But more about this later!

Part IV, ‘The Dictatorial CEO at Daily Work’, is focussed on his daily rounds once he has his executive team in place. He needs to consider how to most effectively use those ‘two levers for moving men’ – ‘interest and fear’ – on a daily basis. He needs to understand the individuals and understand their relationships. While some of this will already be clear from the discussion in the first six chapters, Chapter 7, ‘Evaluating and Monitoring Lieutenants’, hones in on a few simple procedures for doing this – with reference books and daily reports featuring prominently. Chapter 8, ‘Putting Basic Tools into Practice’, sees the dictatorial CEO getting down to the nitty gritty of his daily work. He aims to finely calibrate the timing of his moves, and telegraph them as little as possible. He aims to persuade and inspire, as well as keep the lieutenants fearful and aware who is top dog.

Part V, ‘The Daily Lives of the Lieutenants’, considers many of the same issues covered in Part IV but from the point of view of the lieutenants, and considers their reactions to the activities of the dictatorial CEO. There are three chapters: Chapter 9, ‘An Independent Life?’; Chapter 10, ‘Reacting to the Dictatorial CEO’; and Chapter 11, ‘Competition Between Lieutenants’.

Part VI, ‘Time and Tides’, begins with Chapter 12, ‘Time and the Mind of the Dictatorial CEO’, which considers the effects of time, power and stress on his thinking and actions. Chapter 13, ‘Dictatorial CEO Acts Against a Lieutenant’, considers the methods used by dictatorial CEOs to rein-in or dispose of lieutenants; they will be easily recognisable to anyone with more than a minimal degree of organisational experience. Chapter 14, ‘The Dangerous Life of the Heir’, looks at the often precarious position of those lieutenants who have been nominated by the dictatorial CEO to succeed him, or seem most likely to do so.

Part VII presents some Concluding Remarks.