Mass murder. Forced starvation. Widespread destruction. Much of the misery to be found in the past hundred years has been the direct result of totalitarian dictators. These megalomaniacs, whether in Europe during the 1940's or North Korea today, are driven by paranoia, bizarre ideologies, and a raw lust for power. Yet it is no surprise that crackpots like these exist--there have been bloodthirsty maniacs as long as there have been human beings. What is more interesting, however terrible, is that these twisted individuals have always managed to get massive portions of their country's populations to follow them and to help them execute their demented fantasies.

There is no question that when a totalitarian dictator emerges, the result is death and destruction. There is no question that anyone with a conscience should support every attempt to end their regimes and free the people living under their boot heels. That said, there is also no avoiding the tremendous skill these tyrants display in persuading large masses of people to devote themselves to their ideas.

If you are reading this publication, I'm assuming you're not working on a plan of world domination--at least in the military or political sense. At the same time, if you could unlock even a sliver of these despots' power to build a fanatical following, it stands to reason you would dramatically improve your ability to spread your far more benevolent (and profitable) message.

This article teaches you how to do just that.

Create a Cult of Personality

Human beings are not rational creatures. The same exact idea presented differently can inspire fervent devotion on one hand or lukewarm rejection on the other. In general, the way in which ideas are received by the public has far less to do with the content of the concepts and much more to do with the personality and style of the person presenting them.

You don't have to look far to see dictators who created larger-than-life public personas in order to successfully spread their ideas. But there are many examples in the business world as well. Tim Ferriss is not simply an author of books about efficiency, he is a near superhuman who speaks countless languages, bathes in ice water, and regularly defeats highly trained martial arts warriors in hand-to-hand combat. Tony Robbins is not simply a professional coach, he is a literal Goliath who lives in a castle and promises a path to deliverance that can only be achieved by walking across a bed of hot coals. And Gary Vaynerchuk is no mere marketing expert, he is a man who is able to live without sleep, is plugged into social media even when engaging in the most basic of biological functions, and whose hordes of acolytes proudly call themselves Vayniacs.

There is a reason these savvy multimillionaires have chosen this approach--it works. Making a logical case that whatever it is you are selling is the best choice is simply not enough, especially in our media saturated age. Instead, construct an image around yourself that is big, bold, and confrontational. Magnify your positive attributes and eliminate the possibility that other approaches may be as valid as yours. If you can convince people that your way is the only way, there will be nowhere that you can't take them.

Focus on Centers of Influence

Totalitarian dictators don't waste time winning over the puny hearts and minds of their eventual followers one by one (although they often claim that they do). They shortcut the process by aligning themselves with people who already have the influence they want.

If you study the stories of the most successful tyrants, you'll notice that they move quickly to cement alliances with the institutions in their state that people already listen to--the Army, the Church, the nation's largest corporations. In so doing, they get these power players to throw their weight behind them and quickly spread their message to the masses in the process.

A lot of the literature on marketing out there today focuses on painstakingly building a mailing list person by person. This is an approach that totalitarian dictators are far too savvy to take. It is much more effective to identify those individuals or institutions that have the most sway with the markets you want to reach and connect with them. Then flatter, cajole, and convince them that spreading the word about your way of doing things will help them achieve whatever goals and dreams they have.

Exploit New Media

Considering the medieval conditions they force their subjects to live under, totalitarian dictators tend to be remarkably savvy at using the newest media technologies to spread their messages, even before they have been adopted by a mainstream audience. The despots of the twentieth century employed both radio and film in the earliest years of their existence to take and cement their power.

There is a reason for this. When an eventual dictator attempts to overthrow the existing order, the powers-that-be typically already have control of the mainstream media of the day. So broadcasting your message on radio when the existing government already has the newspapers tied up is a great strategy. And once a dictator finally grabs power for himself, he can easily continue to use the new superior technology to cement his stronghold on public opinion.

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, radio is close to obsolete and new forms of digital media are emerging by the week. It is up to you to stay on top of what they are and to use them to craft your public image, connect with influencers, and create devotion in your followers. Because if you don't, an upstart might swoop in and seize power for himself.

Published on: Jan 14, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.