Sunday, February 6, 2011

Charismatic Leadership: Detached Connectivity

Quite often within political and social circles, you hear of charismatic leaders who have a preternatural love for people. These charismatic leaders appear selfless and altruistic, always willing to go the extra mile for the greater good. To these individuals, the glass is always half full. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are said to have customarily carried “sunny” dispositions. Of course in the political arena, where one has to appear to be all things to all people, the authenticity of whether a true love for people exits is debatable. However, suffice to say that if politicians in general and optimistic individuals, specifically, are more malleable to the foibles of human nature, does this create deeper connections with other people? If charisma, as defined by Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute is, ”The creating of perceptions that impact the mind and emotions of others through flair, finesse and glib language,” do these “lovers of people” emote differently than everyone else or merely better actors?

In viewing the issue from the position of charismatic leadership, emoting and acting becomes very real. If charismatic leaders are performance driven that takes on a messianic veneer, not only are they aware of the foibles of human nature, they have to be vigilant about the damage it can cause. Anyone versed in the basics of psychology and sociology has to give homage to the greatness of the human spirit during crisis situations, but also become suspicious of its potential for mayhem. In this regard, the charismatic leader, steeped in accomplishing a specific mission, has to view the glass as “half full and half empty.” Metaphorically, the glass represents what the charismatic leader knows about the vagaries of human nature, but often masks this dark side with feigned optimism. In a Machiavellian sense, the charismatic leader does whatever is necessary for the situation to affect a desired outcome.

Does this mean that charismatic leaders are frauds preying on the emotionalism of others? Not necessarily. They have keen insights into the motivational needs of others that are often utilized for achieving a certain objective. If the charismatic leader can be blamed for anything, it may be for his belief that he knows what is best for individuals irrespective of their input. The love that charismatic leaders have for others may not be out of magnanimity, but pity. This pity in its manifestations would naturally come out as patronizing, but through the keen awareness of human nature, it flows as optimism. The charismatic leader connects with others to achieve a long term goal, but is inherently detached, because of his prescience of the vagaries of human nature. His motto might be, “Love from afar, but make it feel up close and personal.” Often, people do not want the harsh realities of truth and support anyone who provides a semblance of hope. To this extent, charismatic leaders operate to provide optimism on the front end, while dealing with the muck and mire of diverging forces on the back end. Charismatic leaders know that they cannot have it both ways--pure optimism exclusive of the dark side of human nature-- but have to at least appear that the two sides are reconcilable. Followers of charismatic leaders will not have it any other way.

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