One of the biographies of Mao Tse Tung, China's dictator for over three decades, begins with a compelling sentence:
Mao Tse Tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world's population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth century leader.1
Josef Stalin, the ruthless Russian dictator, similarly terrorized much of the Soviet population. He was, according to several authors, responsible for the deaths of up to 40 million people within the borders of the Soviet Union.2 Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, estimated that Stalin murdered 20 to 25 million of his fellow citizens through imprisonment, deliberate famine, and execution. While there are understandable debates about the precise number of deaths and murders, there is little question that the numbers are massive and that the leadership tenures of these two dictators were devastatingly destructive or toxic.
Unfortunately, Mao and Stalin were not isolated instances of national dictators. Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Pinochet, Trujillo, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-iI, and Castro are also responsible for large numbers of murders and executions. And toxicity is not restricted to leaders of nations. Even though totalitarian dictatorships often involve massive brutality and loss of freedoms, the corporate and nonprofit domains also have their share of sorry episodes: