Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Charisma Goes to Church: ONE is the Only Number!

We would be hard pressed in attempting to determine how many charismatic leaders exist in the world. Not only does the amount represent an incredibly small number, the actual criteria that individuals confer on charismatic leaders are subjective and whimsical. Even if two individuals can agree on which leaders are charismatic, they tend to disagree on the degree of their charisma. While this shouldn't matter much (charisma is as charisma does), the extent to which one follows one charismatic leader over another resonates with: The visceral message of the leader; and when the adherent feels a connection with the leader and his message. An unscientific observation would be the ministerial styles of Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia and Creflo Dollar of the World Changers Church in College Park, Georgia.

Both Pastors oversee a congregation well over 25,000. Their messages have attracted a cross section of the same demographics, mainly African-Americans who are upwardly mobile who have found a cultural as well as a socioeconomic connection between the two ministers. Dollar takes a more overt stand in supporting a prosperity gospel whereas Long shares similar viewpoints covertly, but with a stronger emphasis on the youth and hipper issues. While the two may have some semblance of the "ole time religion," they largely have tailored their message and thus their mission to a current congregation with contemporary issues. Although the two charismatic clerics have shared the same platform together, it would be interesting to know how many congregants visit the others church? If either congregation does not experience “flip flopping” of visitation, then what would be the reason?

Invariably, there are differences in the religious styles between the two, which tap into their congregational base. At a cursory view, it would be an educated guess that there isn't a lot of "flip flopping." The societal dictate of choosing one brand over the other does not stop even when dealing with spiritual matters. Western culture is steeped in brand ‘A’ being better than brand ‘B’. Consequently, the adherents of charismatic leaders choose the dominant clergy as category giants just as he or she chooses the dominant product in cereal, soap and toothpaste.
And so the charismatic leader chooses one segment in a population or topic and builds his base on that platform. Consequently, the "one size fits all" notion is cannibalized in the church under charismatic leadership as it is in the marketplace. Charismatic leaders find one mission, idea or product and push and promote that idea to attract adherents. It is deemed un-charismatic to not be identified with a salient message. Donald Trump is the quintessential real estate developer and is connected with opulence and grandeur. Lee Iaccoca is the savoir to Chrysler Corporation. Ted Turner is the innovator of CNN and the Superstation. John Delorean is the maverick behind a sports car. Whether clergy or businessperson, the methodology is similar.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Only the Bold Survive!

Contrary to popular belief, the people who are often hugely successful in their accomplishments go against the grain. They find new and innovative ways of getting things done as well as garnering attention. In this age of "Done it and seen it before," it is important to break models and paradigms of the "only one way" of doing something. There is a saying that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. When you ask for permission, you are relying on the will of someone else to sanction or veto your plans. However, when you ask for forgiveness, you have already accomplished what you wanted without having asked. The other person is at a weakness. Now, this does not suggest that we're condoning immoral behavior, but you will get a lot farther in life creating your own path with a mind towards positive outcomes rather than being at the behest and approval of others.

By writing your own rules, you exemplify a predominate trait among charismatic leaders. While purporting to benefit everyone, many rules are designed to benefit a segment of the population. That's why when too many people start utilizing a rule to their benefit; the rule is amended. Rules are kept in place as long as the stated goals are maintained. Rules and laws operate on the same continuum with laws having greater repercussions when broken. Boldness knows when to follow the rules that generally protect the public interest versus those that curtail aspirations. Rules involving social etiquette and public policy should be severely scrutinized. This is not confirmation for psychopathic behavior, but merely opening up the options to play to your strengths and not bind yourself in a social straitjacket.

As you are strengthening your position, it is imperative that you navigate the world as if you are the "center" of it. You are in the captain's seat and all the controls are at your disposal. By positioning your mindset from this vantage, you not only discard rules that are irreconcilable, but begin to rewrite your own rules. At this point, a caveat is important. When rewriting rules, be prepared for the consequences and repercussions that independent thinking brings forth. As you travel throughout the world, you will see a difference in the economic structure of independent versus dependent countries. Those countries that are supported by or are territories of a superpower are more picturesque and garner more resources than countries lacking external support. The dependent countries in their quest to be self-determined have abdicated any form of dependence and have paid the price through rejecting external influence. This is salient for you who opt to pave your own way devoid of dependency of benefactors. By engaging in dependent relationships, it may seem advantageous at first blush. After all, you are tying your aspirations to a policy or decision-maker who can make your life easier and thus strengthen your ability to build clout. However, you have not strengthened your position for longevity, but for a temporary period of time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Charismatic Leadership: Magnetic or Manipulative?

It is safe to say that charismatic leadership is an orphan in the pantheon of leadership models. Scholars and pundits alike are ambivalent as to the real value of charismatic leadership for helping build coalitions, increase revenue and ultimately encourage followers to become more empowered. Contrary to the traditional meaning of charisma as "a gift from God" or the Greek meaning "Grace in action," contemporary society often characterizes charisma as a manipulative tool to usurp the power and free will of individuals. J.W. Gibson, J.C. Hannon and C.W. Blackwell in The Journal of Leadership Studies point out that:

"There is no way that charismatic leadership is always a good thing or that it is needed in visionary organizations. It seems to be a good thing only when conditions are right and the intentions or the leader are in the best interests of the company and employees. Because of its emotional overtones and its ability to create fierce loyalty, charisma remains a dangerous construct--as capable of working evil as good. Evidence has been noted that suggests that charismatic leadership, while exciting when it happens may not be necessary for sustained growth and health of excellent companies. "1

This is assessment is a far cry from the initial account of charisma as a "gift" or "grace" noted in St. Paul's epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthian, 7:7) and man being encouraged to show his light before the world (Matthew 5:14-16). From the text, charisma is viewed as a special gift, which is individualized. Church scholar, Rudolph Sohm, maintained the concept of charisma under the religious banner until sociologist Max Weber secularized it and positioned it away from the confines of religious dogma.

All in all, it is difficult to ascertain how charisma received such a bad rap. It has scorned many, not because of its negativity, but because its overpowering energy that seems to induce codependency within adherents. No one can discount the good feelings experienced in the presence of a charismatic individual. The enchantment is remembered forever

1 Gibson, J.W., Hannon, J.C., & Blackwell, C.W. (1998). Charismatic leadership: the hidden controversy. The Journal of Leadership Studies, 5(4).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Charismatic Leadership Versus Traditional Leader Model

Research suggests that during tumultuous times a charismatic leader is better for a crisis over a more traditional form of leadership. After the crisis has been abated, a more traditional style of leadership is advised. According to a USA Today article, "Charmed, I'm sure" by Steve Bodow (12/9/02), charismatic leaders enhance profitability during economic downturns. Jay Conger, a London Business School professor and USC researcher says that the traits that allow charismatic leaders to help enhance profitability are: · A restless compulsion to challenge the status quo. The charismatic leader is most at home, and most effective, in chaos. · A clear vision within uncharted territory to explore · An ability to articulate a vision compellingly to any audience and to imbue it with a sense of great importance. · An ability to create a sense that no other person could--or would--take the same tactic. · An ability to inspire and permit those around him to do extraordinary things. The distinction between Charismatic Leadership and Traditional Leadership should be noted, because pundits are inclined to use a "One size fits all" approach to complex problems requiring more specificity. Many opponents of the Charismatic Leadership model lambast its effectiveness based on how some leaders affected the model. Charismatic dictators like: Hitler, Mussolini and Idi Amin are often referred to as icons of the Charismatic Leadership Model. Even when positive charismatic leadership has been demonstrated by the likes of: John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton or Winston Churchill, pundits often point to the personal failings of such leaders. This "Hate-fest" for the charismatic model, in part, stems from the divisive nature of the charismatic model. Leaders are either extremely loved or extremely hated. That's testimony to the visceral passion this brand of leadership stirs up. Love it or hate it, the charismatic leadership model will become a more viable interpersonal factor on the world stage as human relations and economies become more competitive and challenging. The presidential election signaled the potency of the Charismatic Leadership Model as well as its viability in a tumultuous world.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Has President-Elect Obama Dismantled the Clinton Political Machine?

The fact that the new Obama Administration is attempting to dismantle the Clinton Political Machine, shows how formidable the Clinton Political Machine has become. For the last 30-plus years, the Clintons have successfully created their own political dynasty from the ground up with nothing, but pure idealism and persistency. Collectively, they ruled the Democratic Party in ways that caused rancor inside and outside of the Party. President Clinton's willingness to become more transparent is part of the second act of continuing the Clinton Dynasty. Even if Senator Clinton couldn't become president, her role as Secretary of State, keeps the global relationships President Clinton created over the years alive and well. In a global economy, the perpetuity of dynasties aren't any longer limited to domestic influence, but have international implications. Does decentralizing the Clinton Political Machine make the Clintons stronger or weaker? Like any force to be reckoned with, you can't stop it, you can only contain it. President-elect Obama realizes he can't stop the Clinton Machine, but only contain it long enough to achieve his own goals and aspirations. Will we see an Obama Political Machine emerge? That's exactly what he's doing by layering his Administration with past and present powerful people. Obama is not a visionary in a sense. He is more Machiavellian. Like a crafty fox, he uses cunning to control the ferociousness of lions. His is a story of truncated power, where you use powerful people to shorten the necessary years it generally takes to build empires. Obama is a Pop Culture President where you don't create new ideas, but "remix" and "sample" the originals. After all, if there isn't anything new under the sun, why innovate? Theorists have postulated that whatever has worked in the past will work in the future with a little tweaking.
Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, not only continues the Clinton Dynasty, but also ties Obama's success or failure to her own. Down the line, she can't say, "I was only following orders." With so much riding on any future political aspirations she might have, it behooves her to promote the Obama Administration. For those who are taking careful notes, you are witnessing a new brand of politics and the acquisition of power.