What the Communist Party Got Right About Leadership

Today’s post was co-written with Brooke Steinke, a student in the Organizational & Management Communication class at CollegePlus. It was great working with you this semester, Brooke!

Three months ago, if someone had asked me what I could learn from the Communist Party, I would have jokingly replied, “How not to run a government.”

However, since then, I read Douglas Hyde’s book, Dedication and Leadership. Hyde was a news editor of the Communist newspaper London Daily Worker and outspoken Party member during and after WWII – in Great Britain no less. Finally coming to the realization that the Communist philosophy is intrinsically flawed, Hyde resigned from the Party but argued that the Communist leadership methods are, in many cases, extremely effective and worth emulating. “Never in man’s history has a small group of people set out to win the world and achieved more in less time,” he wrote. In his book, Hyde demonstrated that the techniques Communism used to create leaders and spread its influence are not “Communist” techniques at all. They are, in fact, very effective and powerful strategies anyone can use to instill dedication and leadership in others.


Here are a few of the strategies that Douglas Hyde revealed from the Communist Party:

Give people something grand to aspire toward.

The Communists gave their new recruits a grand cause worth fighting for. They understood the idealism of youth and dramatically appealed to it. Members were recruited to lead for the cause, not themselves. Of course, it was equally important to show every person how they fit into the “great struggle for mankind.” But the Communists believed before you can show a person what role they will play, you must first give them a copy of the entire script—they have to see why the seemingly mundane things they are doing really help to create a new and better world.

Ask a lot. Expect a lot. Get a lot.

When a person converted to Communism, they came prepared to give—extravagantly. Why did the Communist Party get this kind of response? Mostly because they asked for it. “…Communism demanded everything…it asked for the whole man and got it,” Hyde wrote. The Party proactively set expectations so that recruits were already prepared to sacrifice until it hurt. People respond in the same degree that they are asked; if you ask for little, you will get little in return. So be bold. Don’t beg for bare the minimum. Make huge asks—and watch as people rise to the occasion.

Use Trial by Fire to Build Commitment.

Once new recruits joined the Party, they were immediately given a task to recruit others in public settings for several reasons. First, when a person is actually investing time and energy into something, they are much more likely to remain committed to it. Second, it gave them a chance to apply and defend what they had already learned. Third, since they were still new, they would inevitably fail to respond to the tough opposition, which convinced them of their inadequacy and built a stronger appetite for further learning. In this way, further development met a felt need.

Hyde was not the only person to leave the Communist Party after becoming disillusioned with the basic ideology. Yet many dissenters were conflicted since they had joined for all the “right” reasons. Wrote Hyde, “I have had former Communists say to me: ‘Even though I now see the evil in Communism, I still believe that when I joined the Communist Party it was the biggest and best decision I made in my life. It was the most unselfish thing I ever did.'”

Ideas have consequences. For that reason it’s important to realize that leadership isn’t “right and wrong.” In some cases, it’s life and death. That’s what makes dedication so important.

How can you use these strategies to inspire dedication in your followers?

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, speaker and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective with Leadership-in-a-Box.