Monday, March 28, 2011

Charisma: Before & After

By Edward Brown

The manifestation of charisma has changed over the past 40 years. This Q& A delves into what happened and why.

Q: How has charisma changed in the last few decades?

A: Essentially, individuals started focusing on being popular versus being effective. Everyone wants his/ her 15 minutes of fame and entertainment has trumped all other vocations and aspirations.

Q: What brought about this seismic shift?

A: There are many factors to choose from: The expansion of multimedia, the emergence of the Internet, the morphing of art into reality, the transcendence of sports and entertainment as a past time activity to a way of life. Entertainment overtook law, science and education.

Q: How does the desire to be popular impact charisma?

A: Charismatic leaders are motivated by an internal struggle to rewrite history. It is a long and arduous struggle to start from mere imagination to an idea coming to fruition. Effectiveness takes decades where popularity can come overnight. It is the difference between Maurice White, who went from The Ramsey Lewis Trio to forming the musical group Earth, Wind & Fire and Justin Beiber. White created masterpieces where Beiber creates pop art. Both frameworks are conceptual.

Q: If there is a shortage of charismatic personalities and events, how does new technology fit in? Have the inventors of FaceBook, Amazon or Microsoft redefined what charisma is?

A: Zuckerberg, Bezos and Gates would be described as “geeks.” They were the guys in school who were out of favor with the “Cool Crowd” that girls didn’t necessarily like. These captains of industry proved that geeks or “smart” people win in the end. They are not charismatic, but their inventions have a high degree of magnetism. Interesting enough, a medium that would act most favorable to introverts and “cast aways” is also used by the Cool Crowd. These three individuals alone turned conventional wisdom on its ear by having the world come to them as opposed to them going to the world.

But, make no mistake, these three men are polar opposites of the late auto designer John DeLorean, who was charismatic and a great inventor simultaneously.

Q: So, did Zuckerberg, Bezos and Gates create an environment where charisma is null and void?

A: No, they created an environment where charisma could flourish. A charismatic leader has greater opportunities and resources for leading and maintaining a mission/crusade in ways that were not available years ago. The charismatic leader and people with compelling ideas can cut out the middle man. In the same vein, it is also more difficult to get a message out due to the cacophony or “mass noise” of insignificant people trying to gain fame.

The difference between the messages of the charismatic leader versus the masses is that the charismatic leader will spend a lifetime working towards the manifestation of an idea. The masses looking for 15 minutes of fame will quit and move on to something else in a quest to be popular. Today, more than ever, relentlessness and persistency pays off for the charismatic personality with a compelling idea.


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