Joseph Stalin whose real surname was Dugashviliwas an early follower of Lenin. He later changed his name to Stalin, meaning "man of steel." His friends called him "Koba," the name of a Robin Hood type figure who fascinated him as a child. Although he was paranoid and ruthless, this does not explain his rise to power. Stalin was also quite cunning. He often sided with members of the politburo against a single member, thus eliminating that member. Then, he sided with the majority of the remaining members, thus eliminating those who opposed him one by one. Ultimately, even Lenin began to distrust Stalin, but Lenin suffered a debilitating stroke. While he was recuperating, Stalin had special editions of newspapers printed for Lenin's eyes only which portrayed only good news. Stalin had the phones of other members of the politburo bugged (including his arch rival Leon Trotsky) and when he learned that Lenin's will specifically objected to Stalin succeeded him, he intercepted the Will. Stalin quickly turned on those who had previously supported him, thus securing more power for himself. Typically, he accused them of being enemies of the Revolution. In this regard, he was helped by his major henchman, Lavrentia Beria, a psychopathic murderer. During the Great Purges, Stalin eliminated practically everyone who had supported him earlier, frequently promising leniency if they confessed, or threatening their families. Members of the politburo often slept with pistols under their pillows to commit suicide should the KGB appear in the middle of the night, so that they might avoid the hideous torture they knew would await them otherwise. They often held their breaths when they heard the sound of the apartment elevator, hoping it would not stop on their particular floor. An excellent but chilling account of Stalin's rise to power and his stranglehold on the Soviet Union is Simon Begag Montefiore: Stalin, at the Court of the Red Tsar.
Joseph Stalin came to lead the Soviet Union through his organizational skills and his completely ruthless desire for more power.
Stalin got into position to compete for the top spot in the Soviet Union by being a good organizer. This talent of his allowed him to rise all the way to be one of Vladimir Lenin's top subordinates. Once Stalin made it to that position, he used his ruthlessness to become the top leader of the Soviet Union.
Stalin worked politically to the post of general secretary of the Central Committee a very powerful one. He managed to maneuver in ways that allowed him to get most of the people who mattered (like various generals) on his side. He used his power to get rid of rivals. Every time he got rid of one rival, he became more powerful and then used that power to get rid of more rivals until he was alone at the top.