Whilst I, on most occasions, strongly disagree with whatever he comes up with, I cannot but admit that he is an extremely talented politician. Throughout his time spent at the head of the government, he has found multiple ways to augment the power of his country.
His time spent at the KGB probably helped him sharpen many skills that have been useful to him as a politician. He is an expert strategist. He knows everything about propaganda. He has a deep knowledge on security and intelligence. He knows how to detect hypocrisy and how to play with it at the expense of his adversaries.
He certainly has a grasp of the average Russian's mind. And it's not just because of propaganda like his western adversaries claim. He simply knows Russia and its people. He knows how to behave with them. How to satisfy them. And how to control them.
He is therefore a very good dictator, to the point that you cannot really give him the same etiquette as other dictators. He found a way to legitimize his reign, by crushing his most dangerous political adversaries and letting others breathe. He found an efficient way of using the current political system to remain in power.
By one hand he oppresses his people, but with the other one he feeds and pets them. The people, seeing the positive growth of Russia ( especially financially ) tolerate Putin's rule because he knows how to filter his use of power. Other dictators will go to extremes to impose their will upon their people.
He plays his cards very well internationally as well. He kept many old communist friendships alive even though the USSR is no more and even though Russia is not as red as it used to be, and he also managed to create new partnerships through the last decades.