A guide to becoming a Totalitarian CEO
Why is being a Totalitarian necessary? Maybe because we are back to the world order where we are either an oppressor or oppressed. Or our mothers told us that we were the best while growing up and now we can’t help but be numero uno. Or maybe because we are already approaching the end of our corporate fruitfulness and want to be seen as relevant in the age of technology and experimentation. Or simply because it is the only way forward and upward.
From a business’s point of view, such leaders are needed who can take “strong decisions”, “motivate” team to perform in the most “challenging” environment, outperform the “competition” and deliver returns for investors come what may. They are responsible for doing all the dirty jobs, managing expectations and it’s only natural for such persons to be “fit for the job”. Hence it makes a business case for the investors to appoint a strong leader at the top. It will bring efficiency, since what’s better than a strict Jailer to tame the herd of freshers working 16hrs a day on some repetitive labor-intensive top-down organization. And these corporate bullies, demanding bosses, egomaniacs, whatever you want to term them, are not bad leaders. In fact, they are responsible for keeping the wheels rolling, creating livelihoods, and paying taxes(hopefully).
Moving from benefits to investors and shareholders to the leader himself: once you have established your authority, life is king size. You can get away with anything and everything. You will create rules, change bylaws, and eventually write history. No one will dare to object you in any way. And the best part is, if something bad happens, you can pick anyone as a scapegoat while all good things happening will automatically be credited to your personal brand. Suffice to say, unless you do a major scandal, you can reap the benefits from all the hardworking employees while living a lavish life of the King. It will be your fortress which no audit or HQ team could penetrate.
Hopefully, by now I have adequately motivated and inspired you to be this bad boss, the master of office politics, “the King”.
So the next question is, “How?”
While their biographies will tell you how humble and hard-working the Kings are, the number of challenges they had to overcome to become successful business leaders, none of them will actually reveal their success mantra. However, why don’t I unlock their secret for you! Here’s the nitty-gritty of how you can become one of Them:
Step 1: Dictatorship starts with democracy, meritocracy, and equal opportunity employment policies. In the beginning, everyone is motivated, dedicated, and hardworking. The morale is high and people work as a team. Somewhere somehow enters your truer self: a bad fish, a sweet talker, a free-rider, an expert in managing people. You become an immediate favorite and get the promotion along with a few others. As the pyramid becomes steeper, where only one of these few can rise to the top, the real politics starts.
Step 2: Merit can only take you up to a certain level and then hits the mid-career crisis. There is only one corner office. Everyone has worked hard and proven their metal. What counts then is the X factor. Who is closer to the Gods, who bring birthday presents, who are the smoke buddies, whose kids play together, so on and so forth. Finally, that day comes when all these years of sycophancy, hardwork and credit mongering are finally rewarded, and you get promoted above the rest.
Step 3: Eliminate the competition. If there is one thing harder than achieving success, it is to sustain it. And this is a sure-shot formula to keep a hold on that highly coveted seat, the easiest strategy to remain on top. You know how hard the climb was and the moment you reach the summit, you don’t want to face hardships all over again. So if you are smart, the first thing you will do would be to burn the ladder, and everyone on it. Anyone who has a problem with you has to be shown the door. This will also create gaps that can be conveniently filled with fresh sycophants, partisans, and harmless hardworking employees. You have the reign.
Step 4: Now, you need to turn your tiny lordship into a powerful empire. Hire fresh nerds who will build world-class AI but won’t have the spine to go to the loo without your permission. Reward compliance and allegiance, and eliminate any dissenter or divergent the moment you spot them. And finally, create a personal brand. It has to be a one-man show. Print your coins, build temples for yourself, and start writing history honoring yourself. You can’t afford the credit to go to anyone other than you. You have to create the contrast, the spotless moon amongst all the dim stars on a full moon night. And voila! You are a Dictator.
T&C*: Dictatorship or a Totalitarian regime comes with a negative connotation. It’s oppressive, regressive, and BAD for everyone. You have by now successfully established your regime and have been repealing the fruits of others’ hard work in your dominance for some years. You have the perfect monopoly as people are out of options, because you strategically eliminated the alternatives. People will vote for you, buy from you, work for you, and talk about you all the time. Initially, because you said you are the best and you were. However, slowly you will become complacent, arrogant, overconfident, and lose the touch of reality. You will keep making mistakes, and there is no-one to correct you because that feedback mechanism is long gone. You will start by insulting subordinates, bullying suppliers, and offending each and everyone in the market. You are on that high!
Final warning: Once you cross the limit, when you start abusing customers through nasty services or investors with nonsensical excuses, people will start to notice. Your YoY chart will fail to bottom out and it will become evident that you are running out of gas, and your growth narrative will no more be digestible. And the only reason you will remain relevant will be the absence of alternatives.
The only reason you will remain relevant will be the absence of alternatives.