Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wanted: Charismatic Leaders and Ideas

Since the election of President Barack Obama, the conversation surrounding charismatic leadership has quieted. This is a dramatic shift from candidate Obama who regaled the world reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s “Camelot.” Obama’s youthful vigor, enthusiasm and good looks were a breath of fresh air in an attempt to “reset” the agenda for geopolitics and commerce in a global economy. The world had waited for a change in business and politics and Obama seemed to answer the clarion call. What happened? How could a candidate who came out of virtually nowhere have a meteoric rise and then the connectivity and charisma ascribed to him become muted? The obvious question would be, “Was candidate Obama a bona fide charismatic or merely more interesting compared to the field of his non-charismatic competitors?” More importantly, is society so desirous of leadership with passion and a compelling vision that it will support anyone who comes close to this ideal? Suffice to say that when leaders, generally, and charismatic leaders, specifically, are not in abundance, any uptick towards a semblance of leadership is not only embraced, but revered. The fact is that charismatic leadership is scarce because there are too few people steeped in the field of ideas. Sexy marketing is in and the hard fought battle of reconciling disparate ideas and concepts is out. Contemporary society is witnessing the “dummying down” of intelligence in an information, digital age. Such a thought appears oxymoronic. How could the democratization of information produce so few great men and women of ideas? How could the great universities of the world not produce a sea of Einsteins or a phalanx of Alexander Hamiltons? Only in a time where one does not have to dig for information could ideas that produce compelling and magnetic leaders be quashed.

What is the connection between charismatic leaders and ideas?

When the mind is disciplined to read and absorb a great deal of information, it sees patterns and voids in ways the less intellectual cannot. If the mind is a computer within itself, it arranges ideas that seem disconnected into a tapestry of form. It fills empty spaces within the human experience with substance hoped for, but not realized until now. It is like someone having a taste for something sweet, but does not know what dessert would actually fulfill the desire. If one was posed options to select from, the person would decide the appropriate treat based on taste and satisfaction. Thought leaders who turn ideas into compelling visions do not create to lead, they create and the audience embraces the viability of the idea and follows. The thought leader revels in the field of ideas. Ideas revitalize, capture and spark new realities converse to mere existence. The individual devoid of ideas is a lifeless lump of clay. Better yet, a living, breathing, “Lifeless,” lump of clay.

Thought leaders with compelling ideas delivered with passion reflect charismatic leadership. They breathe life into individuals that either encourages similar initiatives or a renewed purpose on the part of individuals. The field of ideas creates these leaders, but one must be intellectually curious to wallow in the possibilities. Because the Information Age has not produced individuals with great intellectual curiosity, it has not produced an abundance of thought leaders who inspire hope and the manifestation of ideas. It has created people who regurgitate information as a means of satisfying limited needs (Term papers, answers to immediate questions, trivial pursuit, etc…), but not the next Alexander the Great, Emerson or Machiavelli.

Within any presidency or position of leadership, it is important to inspire hope and optimism, but at the end of the day, the continuous creation, processing and implementation of ideas are essential. The world can become saturated with entertainment, sports and even technology, but the field of compelling ideas with never be overrun. The charismatic leader chooses the road less travelled. To choose the road less travelled makes all the difference in the world.

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