When you get down to the nuts and bolts of what a cult is and how they work, the ultimate root of everything is mind control. And what I mean by that is having the ability to control someone’s thoughts and actions in a very covert or overt way. While most examples are very covert.
While most cults have one centralized, charismatic, guru-type leader, some don’t, but I have seen that most all have at least been started with a guru character.
Cult leader develop a “god complex” when they realize that they have the power to control and manipulate others. As their time progresses, they seem to get worse and worse. For example, Jim Jones started out as a preacher in Indiana, but most people considered him harmless. But using his political perspective of communism and extreme Christian views, those combined resulted in what eventually became “The People’s Temple” and led to a more communal life style of isolationism and psychological entrapment. Jones eventually began calling himself a god to people.
The phrase remains true “power corrupts, ultimate power corrupts absolutely”. Mind control is power, and this power is like a drug, and cult leaders want more of it, and cannot get enough of it.