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Chetan Dhruve

Author of the books How to Think About Marriage
and Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator








Why do we behave the way we do?

A radical new approach to understanding our behavior, using systems thinking

When someone behaves in a particular way, we usually attribute that behavior to the individual. While there’s no doubting that a person’s own individuality plays a role, there’s usually something else that’s influencing the person’s behavior.

What’s that something? The system the person is a part of. The system unleashes invisible forces that impact our behaviors, forces we’re mostly unconscious of.

In my books, "Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator"* (2007) and "How to Think About Marriage,"** (2023) I explore the effect of systems on our behavior in two widely differing relationships - the boss-subordinate relationship, and marriage.

* Currently available in paperback only
** Currently available on the Kindle reader only

Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator is available in Spanish titled ¿Por qué los jefes son dictadores? (paperback)



Reader comments for

Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator


"This book is a breakthrough"

- Sally Bibb
Former Director, The Economist (London)

"Your observations are at the heart of the management innovation that is needed to meet the demands of 21st century business challenges."

- Rod Collins
Former Chief Operating Executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program (FEP), with over $19 billion in annual revenues. The FEP is the world's largest private health insurance contract.

Mr Collins is the author of Leadership in a Wiki World: Leveraging Collective Knowledge to Make the Leap to Extraordinary Performance 

"This is a must-read book."

James E. Leemann, Ph.D.
Clinical assistat professor in Tulane University’s Center for Applied Environmental Public Health, and president of the Leemann Group LLC, Scottsdale, AZ.


"This is an excellent book.

I have worked for the NHS [the UK's state-run National Health Service] as a consultant and now I work in Spain for a public system equivalent to the NHS. I would recommend the book to Heads of Departments and hospital managers of both countries.

It is more marked in Spain than the UK, but in both systems, they promote the lack of responsibility. It is almost the same to work harder and better, than working less and without any enthusiasm or new ideas. What you earn and the recognition you get is the same whatever the worker does.

There is a complete absence (particularly in Spain) of any possibility of self-motivation (the only motivation that works in my opinion) when you get the same salary and respect independent of the quality of your work.

This book is not complacent with workers or managers. It focuses brilliantly on what is the most powerful energy in working relationships - fear.

In my opinion, it is easier and safer to work under these circumstances than fighting for your freedom. It is easier and safer but not completely "free of charge". As the author has proved, the outcomes of working under fear have their own disastrous consequences. And in general terms, the lack of responsibility and freedom at work inevitably leads to frustration and maybe more psychological problems in the long term. We have all heard or said, "I am not motivated", or more frequently, "They are unable to motivate me."

However, freedom is not cheap. It requires an extra-effort of self-criticism that we are not all ready to tolerate. I will "vote" for your next book."

Dr Carlos Prada Puentes
Madrid, Spain

(This comment refers to the Spanish edition of the book)


"When a problem happens time and again, it’s a clue that the underlying structure needs to be revamped. In this compelling application of systems thinking to workplace dynamics, Dhruve makes the case that our current organizational structures unintentionally create poor boss-employee relationships— and suggests how we might solve this persistent challenge."

- Janice Molloy
Managing editor of the Systems Thinking newsletter, program director of the annual Systems Thinking in Action conference and content director of Pegasus Communications.


"Required reading in business schools."

- Henrik Mårtensson
Management consultant working with the Theory Of Constraints, Lean, and agile methodologies.
Partille, Sweden
(via Twitter@Kallokain)


"Your book is fantastic!  I teach a systems and processes graduate course at Roosevelt University in Chicago and I directed my students  to the manifesto.  It stimulated some great interest and discussion  and I will assign in future courses."

- Nicole Gravina, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Roosevelt University
Chicago and Schaumburg, IL


"This is a breakthrough in understanding organizational power and why bad management persists. I have learned much from reading your work."

- Les G. Miklosy
Former computer scientist
National Ignition Facility
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


"It's time to reprogram corporate America! Chetan Dhruve drives home a fascinating point in this look at the insidious nature of those creatures we love to hate - bosses. I'd encourage you to buy this book, for the comprehensive explanation of what's wrong with big business."

- Larry Underwood
Former high-level executive, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and author of Life Under the Corporate Microscope - A Maverick's Irreverent Perspective
Scottsdale, AZ, USA


“It's a great contribution to the growing awareness of rankism in the workplace.”

- Dr Robert Fuller
Dr Fuller’s meeting with President Carter in the Oval Office in June 1977 led to the establishment of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger.

Dr Fuller is also former President, Oberlin College and the author of The Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics, All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity, and Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank


"I want to congratulate Chetan Dhruve on providing a total paradigm shift in diagnosing the problem. I deeply appreciate the dealing of this hard, yet controversial topic through this thinking-hat in such admirable fashion. I have management consulting experience of advising firms in several countries, on varied management issues - ranging from strategy to operational improvements, working directly with CxO level stakeholders.

Looking internally, consulting companies have flatter hierarchical structures, but the tight span of control over subordinates remains. As the book says, in any organization, regardless of being less hierarchical, there will always be a power imbalance once someone assumes a boss position.  And this power imbalance makes a tremendous difference on the subordinate’s career. Hence, I sincerely hope this book brings about a change in how companies structure themselves internally! 

- Management consultant
(Name withheld on request), top tier global management consulting firm, APAC


"The book is excellent! I have enjoyed it very much. Putting the advice in this book into effect will help enterprise owners and managers to increase the most important value: trust. Obviously, dictators will feel it as a threat to their power."

- Xavier Bria
Primary Healthcare Center Director
(This comment refers to the Spanish edition of the book)


"I found your book really refeshing. It unlocked some of the most important concepts I need to know about the behaviour in 'power hierarchies'. I work with student development and have long thought about the reason for practices such as hazing when new students are brought into associations.

When I read your book, I found the language for the ideas that for so long were in my head, but not contained in a simple explanation."

- Pieter Kloppers
Manager, Student Housing
Stellenbosch University
South Africa


"Brilliant…and creative!

Looking at the leader-follower relationship through the lens of systems thinking opens up a whole new dimension of creative perspectives around the relationship (besides coming to the realization that it’s the system, and not the individual, that must be redesigned).

The Stanford prison experiment and the article you reference in the NY Times really are sober reminders for my work with healthcare executives (especially physician leaders). Physicians are trained in an abusive (dictatorial) context, and there is plenty of evidence to show how this behavior ultimately gets transmitted to others.  When they take on leadership roles, self-awareness is critical.(I often wonder if physician leaders that still maintain a clinical practice can at least partially offset the ‘alpha dog’ effect!).

Cultures of fear, unfortunately, lead to a long list of tragedies in hospitals…many quality improvement and safety efforts are ultimately doomed from the start because of the failure to recognize the sort of context you describe.  Only a few people died in the Challenger and Discovery disasters…in the US, as you know, almost 100,000 people die each year due to medical error.

Finally, the medical evidence was compelling.  From a medical standpoint, there are also very clear neuro-chemical reasons that underlie these findings."

Dr Manoj Pawar
Denver, Colorado


"After reading Chetan Dhruve’s “Why Your Boss Is Programmed To Be A Dictator”, I’ve had a change of heart. I’ve concluded that hierarchy is a symptom and not the dominant cause of dysfunctional corpricracies. In his book, Mr. Dhruve skillfully develops a compelling case that the lack of the right to vote managers into and out of higher status slots in the hierarchy is the real cause of poor org-wide performance and DIC-force suffering in the workplace.

Mr. Dhruve asserts that there are two canonical forms of power systems: leaderships and dictatorships. By his definition, leaders are elected into power by those they lead, and dictators assume power by any other means. In corpricracies, dictators don’t assume power by shedding blood, they assume power in a civilized manner; by anointment from higher status dictators.

The unquestioned assumption in dictatorships is that superior status equates directly with superior knowledge and judgment. In corpo dictatorships, un-submissive subjects aren’t killed. They’re marginalized at best, and fired at worst. Chetan closes his masterpiece with a brilliant quote targeted at anyone in any power structure: If you aren’t elected, you’re a dictator.”

- Anthony DaSilva


"I was really impressed about the clarity you use to explain your points of view and I have to say that I can't agree more with them."

- Javier Pella


"It's great. You hit the nail on the head. Your message is sobering and while enlightening its hard to grasp. Speaking out is a death knell for a family man. Like most people I have stories man. They ain't pretty. And yes I work for a bank.

I am thinking there has to be a better way. Like you. Will the system change? Not in a hurry. Bravery is key.  As a manager I am hoping I can inspire beautiful management in my staff. One by one we can  inspire a new system. Upwards management is much like the court of Louie the 14th. The art of indirection is at play. Sharp senses. Big hearts.”

- Karl Rohde
Melbourne, Australia


"This is a striking, illuminating and unique book. It is evident that the author has deeply reflected over the emergence of power structures in organizations . Thebook is a real body of work. The writing is fast-paced and keeps you hooked.

The use of Systems Thinking in examining boss and workplace behavior is revolutionary. What I particularly liked is that someone has looked at these established structures and questioned it – not just attacked it (quite common), but truly questioned it from a scientific perspective.I now clearly see how organization structures impact workplace behavior.  

In the process the author has opened up a Pandora’s box because organizations will be forced to rethink their entire organizational structures. This book needs to reach organizations around the world, and also people wishing to gain an insight into human behavior in organizations 

The author has been very honest in admitting to not being able to provide easy, ready-made solutions. The nature of the problem is such that easy and off-the-shelf solutions are not only impossible but dangerous."

- Hari Rao
Bangalore, India


"Excellent....this could be the beginning of a movement."

- Mark Baker
Technical manager, automotive industry


"A controversial title has very effectively been justified by Chetan and has made me expand my understanding of human relations in the context of systems and environment in both personal and professional life. The excellent narrative with logical explanations and real examples makes the book very engrossing and eye opening."

- Nitin Garg
MBA (Carnegie-Mellon University); BTech & MTech IIT, (Mumbai)
International School of Management Excellence (ISME)


"Excellent book and I don’t say that lightly. The main thing I liked was that it was easy to read and the prose flows. Really well done. Several of the examples of the behaviour stick. I really liked the case studies with NASA and the war on Iraq, made the stories memorable."

-Shankar Mukherjee
Managing Director
London, England


"Sheer brilliance of thought. I hope you start speaking and gain more notoriety!"

- Name with-held on request


"I thoroughly enjoyed your book detailing reasons a boss acts as a dictator. I have been in the workforce for over 30 years.  My environment was just like everyone else’s. 

My son is in his late twenties and in the work force.  I have often worried about what my son may have to endure being an American worker.  It can be a highly toxic place to be in more than one way. Hopefully, there will be a change in his lifetime. The change is too late for me.  I have already endured the dictatorship with dire consequences. Something has to change, our system is crumbling!! I don't want my son or grandchildren to endure what so many my age have endured, just to make a living.

My husband also agrees and we have for many years talked about the horror stores from the work environment.  We don't want our son to have the memories, but unfortunately, at his very first job it happened!  It has absolutely left us lacking self esteem from the memories.  Memories that go back as far as 30 years.

Now, the corporate execs from these huge, major companies are ready to retire and draw their huge bonuses and company retirement at the expense of millions of people.  I truly believe this is what is going on now.  Correct me if I am wrong, it does look that way to me!"

- Vickie L Mercer


"I have just finished your book why your boss is programmed to be a dictator. Thank you for writing such an illuminating read! I have had regular problems in my life with anxiety, almost always driven by issues arising from the workplace, I find in your work, some of the reasons that have caused my mental health to suffer - from being very conscious (and sensitive to) this dictatorship issue.

Interestingly I have recently been trying to set up an on-line forum to support those with mental health problems in the workplace. Although my immediate line manager is largely sympathetic, I have been shocked about the sheer fear that has resulted from me trying to set up a website that may effectively be an internal free press! It will be allowed to go ahead, but I fear that any criticism of the established order will be frowned upon (and of course I worry about what impact that may have on my career!).

Thank you for explaining to me in clear language why this situation occurs."

- Name with-held on request


"Absolutely fantastic!"

- Barbara R. Saunders
(via Twitter @bsaunders)


"Eerily prescient"

- Name withheld on request
Financial services industry, UK


"You are absolutely right on target."

- Gene Bellinger
Director and Group Host, Systems Thinking World


"Clearly, the future avoidance of workplace toxicity is important to anyone, whether you’re struggling to stay, or itching to leave.

In my opinion, Chetan Dhruve provides the best guidance in either case. I stumbled across a 44-page, PDF summary of his book, Why Your Boss Is Programmed To Be A Dictator. Upon seeing the length I was ready to move on, but the introductory material was so compelling that I read the whole thing and determined that I would share it with all of you [blog readers] immediately.

It's a must-read for any employee worth his or her salt who feels trapped in a toxic, servile, or paternalistic corporate culture. Chetan lays out a convincingly simple, common-sense premise for understanding how institutionalized groupthink, rankism, and fear of reprisal can suck the life out of our careers and our health, unless we understand the systemic forces at work and take steps to break the paradigm."

- Stephen Michaelson
Lean 6Sigma Project Manager
United Airlines, Chicago


"Very interesting and informative, brilliant research and writing - well done!"

- Shaun Orpen
London, England


"I admire you for daring to pull down the lungis* of bosses. Your suggestion of voting the boss is revolutionary but very logical because this will show management the other side of the coin.

I was fired and humiliated by one of my old bosses for drawing cartoons. From that day on I stopped public exhibition of my cartoons but kept drawing them nevertheless. You have vindicated my stand that creativity should not be curbed.

Power is the Viagra that makes a cat into a tiger and a boss into a dictator. Having been a victim of shark bosses I could feel the impact of each word."

- Name with-held on request
*Lungi - a skirt-like garment worn by men in the Indian sub-continent.


“Thoroughly enjoyed it - will be blogging on it and recommending it. Wonderfully thought-provoking.”

- Don Blohowiak
 Lead Well Institute 


"The idea is brilliant."

- Marios Souglides
Athens, Greece


"This book is a must read for all business practitioners who believe in "Fear is the key to good management ".

- Rahul Mukherjee
Cisco Systems (Bangalore)


"I just finished reading your work entitled Why Your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator and found it incredibly interesting.  What I found most interesting about your comments was the concept of the System."

- Dave Ellison


"I have just finished reading your work with great interest. I have also read most of the linked references, and the time now is 1:10 am. I have learned something and discovered why certain events in my career did happen."

- Thomas Hyde


"I admire the way in which you have presented such a complex issue in such a simple way.... impressed with the humor and the deep thought behind. I found your suggestion for an Org structure impressive. I have proposed that we redraw our hierarchical Org structure that way. I have enjoyed the book immensely."

- Akshay Shah
Pune, India


"Thank you for this thoughtful dialog and great info. Very timely. Read this book now!

- Patty DeDominic
The New World of Work

"Very, very interesting."

 - Floriano Pohlmann


"I'm sending it to a few bosses at my workplace; it will be part of the constant, gentle breeze I blow to change the direction of the organization."

- Richard Neufeld

"Fascinating to say the least. I would also like to thank you for bringing out to the reading public the fascinating facts about the Challenger and Columbia disasters and how the dictatorial hierarchies have boldly led the world to these disasters. It certainly was an eye opener to me."

- Bala Money