Friday, April 30, 2010

Can Charisma Be Lost?

In an interview some years ago on charisma, Dr. Tony Alessandra, author of the book,”Charisma” said charisma could not be lost once a person possessed it. It is not a “Use it or lose it” proposition. Advancing this notion, it is quite possible that charisma could become latent over time, but not lost, if the charismatic has a paradigm shift in beliefs and motivation. If charisma is merely a means of achieving a goal through imagery, passion and sheer determination, could any of these factors lessen a viable charismatic personality? While being adept at understanding human nature, could a charismatic become less charismatic as he unveiled the vagaries that go on inside the minds of individuals? A rationalist’s conclusion might posit that the appearance of charisma might look diminished, but the charisma is still intact. The charismatic personality can be less charismatic in certain situations. Or better yet, not as charismatic in all situations. In this instance, the charismatic is using charisma as a tool based on the needs of the situation. In one forum, he may sit quietly in a corner, totally detached and unnoticed by anyone in the room. In another venue, he may come alive and exhibit more extroverted behavior. In each scenario, the motivation of the charismatic determines the level of charisma he wants to demonstrate. Because the charismatic is internally motivated by self-interest, situations that are valueless warrant little attention or energy. This is the essential difference between the inner workings of charismatics versus the manifestation of charisma by individuals who are “Charismatic-like.” The pure charismatic acts according to his overall mission compared to the charisma-like individual who acts according to short term gains. On the surface, the two manifestations might appear similar. It is through uncovering the inherent mission, biological proclivities and environmental influences that the essential difference can be best identified.

The hard-wiring of a charismatic is so visceral that it is highly unlikely that his internal passion and zeal is not consistently in play unless he opts for another mission or lose interest in the current one he is leading.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Are Charismatic Personalities Always On?

The myriad of opinions surrounding charisma can be astounding. From persuading intractable people to captivating imaginations that had grown lackluster; the charismatic person is seen as an iconic “Mover and Shaker.” But, is he always on? Is his presence always stirring? Actress Joanne Woodward, who was married to actor Paul Newman for 50 years until his death reportedly, said that she did not see what everyone else saw in Paul Newman. She said he was the epitome of normality as he went about his quotidian chores. However, when he was honored for an award or went before crowds, he looked transformed. As much as charismatic personalities seem to be perceptually “on,” they are very often not the beacon of glamor during down times. In fact some pundits have gone as far to attest to different forms of charisma from personal charisma to office charisma. It is true that the degree to which a person reflects charisma hinges on the situation. A person operating a Fortune 500 company may be viewed as charismatic in a corporate setting, but largely lack connectivity in personal relationships. This does not suggest a different type of charisma based on the setting or relationship, but the different objectives of the situation. If charismatic personalities will to power and influence, situations that are not in tune with their vision may not warrant interest or energy in one context compared to another. He may not desire to “waste” his energy and enthusiasm on people and things that do not serve an ultimate purpose.

As such, charismatics are not always on, because they choose not to be perpetually engaging. If the charismatic is passionate, energized and inspired, the source is not the people. People tend to drain the conduits of charisma. The source stems from the ideas surrounding a compelling mission. When Paul Newman rose to the occasion of his charisma, he was meeting the enthusiasm and passion surrounding his body of work within film. The light within a charismatic’s inner sanctum is always on, but the curtain has to be occasionally drawn to keep people from draining the power source.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

The One Thing That Separates Charismatic Personalities From Everyone Else

Actually, there are a few traits that separate charismatics from everyone else, but we will focus on just one attribute---personal constitution. Many pundits speak about the accessibility of charisma for any individual to partake. The standard platitudes involve standing erect, active listening and smiling. These manifestations of charisma are diametrically different to what makes for a charismatic personality. It is important to underscore the difference between what charismatics are doing and what they are thinking.

While charismatics typically are noted for being extremely passionate about ideas, engaging others through highly evolved communication skills and animation, the core motivation is the fulfillment of an overarching mission steeped within a compelling idea. In other words, charismatics are acutely aware of their goals and aspirations and operate from that vantage point most of the time. While most people operate from self-interest, charismatics are laser beam focused with an almost missionary zeal to their quest. Charismatics’ personal constitution is to use any means for bringing a specific idea to fruition. This level of control could be at the micro or macro level. Whether participating in personal relationships or committees, these alliances hold a grander role than mere human connections. Charismatics do not develop paradigms and live within that paradigmatic box. They create ideas and develop paradigms supporting those ideas. As such, they have accepted the contractions fraught with the changing conditions to meet a goal. As a result, you cannot embarrass a charismatic by pointing out a blatant contradiction. He is well aware of the contradiction and has neatly ensconced it within his long term strategy for influence. A compelling reason for his existence separates the charismatic from everyone else.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Charisma, Narcissism & Sociopathy

Soon, I will release seminal report on the impact of narcissism on charismatic leadership. It may sound unusual to speak of charisma in the same vein as narcissism and sociopathy, but there are some traits that charismatic personalities exhibit that could be deemed narcissistic and sociopathic. “Sociopathy” is being devoid of a conscience or totally lacking in normal, human emotions. Dr. Martha Stout (2005) attributes this lack of emotion to a biological proclivity coupled with an environment that values individualism. Narcissism is an abnormal focus and concentration on oneself. The similarity between narcissism and sociopathy is that individuals possessing these traits respectively are eager for power, control and “winning” against individuals.

The correlation between these traits and charismatic leadership is that they typically go hand and hand. While, the average charismatic is not totally devoid of conscience, he may exhibit a form of mutable conscience; in that he will adapt his emotional barometer to fit the situation. In this sense, he may be better qualified as “amoral” rather than immoral. He is very aware and concerned about situations and people around him, but only to the extent that they serve his ultimate purposes.


References


Stout,M. (2005). The sociopath next door. New York: Broadway Books.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Does Celebrity Impact Charisma?

World renowned speaker and author Dr. Tony Alessandra was recently on my online radio show, Charisma Live. In 1998, Dr. Alessandra wrote a book called “Charisma” and was one of the first persons I contacted when I decided to dedicate my life to the study of charisma and charismatic leadership. Many of the precepts in “Charisma” echoed my sentiments on the subject.

On this recent show, Dr. Alessandra described the experience he and others had when they met former President Bill Clinton. Dr. Alessandra and everyone who ever met President Clinton describe the experience similarly as being surreal. Although, there might be pandemonium around President Clinton, he gives you that moment where you feel you and he are the only people in the world. I never pondered much on this experiential concept until Dr. Alessandra brought it up in our recent interview.

Afterwards, the question for me became, “Did President Clinton have spellbinding charisma or did people get swept up into his celebrity as he provided a moment of specialness to them?” As a student of charisma as well as one who has experienced a great deal of charismatic personalities, I opted to believe President Clinton has great charisma, but that it is further amplified by his celebrity.

How many times have you experienced a charismatic personality and felt positive energy, but nothing surreal? Why wasn’t the experience more surreal? What could the individual have done to bump the experience to a President Clinton experience? Did the individual provide enough eye contact? Did he not make a concerted effort to get into your world?

I contend that celebrity provides a level of perceived charisma that is illusory. Eminent philosopher Thomas Carlyle said that people were “hard wired” for hero-worshipping. In other words, people seem to innately crave to believe in someone or something beyond themselves. A charismatic colleague, co-worker or associate may inspire visceral emotions inside you, but it falls short of a Clinton-esque experience, because you still see the person on the same psychic plain as yourself. People are awe-struck, not only by charismatic personalities, but the position or esteem held for them in a larger context. For President Clinton to acknowledge your existence on a seemingly personal level means more to you than a person operating charismatically on a similar level without the signature of celebrity. To say one has had a chat with President Clinton, even over a mundane subject matter, means more to some individuals than a thought provoking conversation with a professor at the local college. At this point, the surreal experience is not intellectual, but emotional. It doesn’t matter that a person may hold advanced degrees or even be a psychologist; individuals still can be swept into the maelstrom of a charismatic figure with celebrity. Even if you were to replicate every nuance of what makes President Clinton surreal, you still would fall short based on lacking celebrity status.

While celebrity status garners a higher degree of perceived charisma, you still can achieve similar results without celebrity. The emotionality of a person feeling positive about an interactive experience you created allows you to develop alliances others can’t without these special skills. Charisma is relative and to be able to see it from different angles allows for its strengths and weaknesses to be studied as well as utilized for maximum effectiveness.

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