By Edward Brown
This Q & A explores the status of charisma in contemporary society.
Q: What is the current condition of charisma in the world today?
A: Currently, there are no seminal or visionary leaders on the world stage to speak about. It does not mean that they do not exist. Somewhere in the world, right now, there is someone trying to get a movement off the ground. He is either attempting to create momentum or maneuvering in his intellectual wilderness planning for the future.
Q: If this charismatic visionary is present, what is taking him so long to reveal his plan?
A: The current political movements in Africa and the Middle East are being mastermind by one or a few individuals. These individuals may be strategists, but not necessarily charismatic figures. Mass movements are often spearheaded by calculating individuals who weigh economic, social and political conditions and foment movement when the time seems ripe. These strategists may be consensus builders rather than positioning themselves for centralized leadership. They may pass the baton on to pockets of interested people rather than become the embodiment of a movement.
Q: So have conditions changed calling for strategists rather than charismatic leaders?
A: Eminent philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said that people were “hard-wired” for hero-worshipping. They inherently need to believe in something or someone bigger than themselves. Strategists can create social movements and change, but in the end, people cry out for a compelling person to articulate and embody their aspirations. Today, it is more difficult for compelling or charismatic leaders to come to fruition, because of the isolation, solitude and extreme discipline it takes to commit one’s life to an idea. It takes a different kind of fortitude to immerse oneself into a mission when less committed individuals may be gaining more attention through the Internet and multimedia.
Q: So if the state of charisma is intact, is it a mere case of the conditions being ideal for charismatic leaders to emerge?
A: Charisma will probably always be intact, because there will always be a compelling personality who seemingly comes out of nowhere and speaks for and outlines a plan to address the unfulfilled needs of a people. The world will never be overrun by charismatic leaders. The time, process and special conditions that align for such individuals to emerge are not prolific. It takes a long time for charismatic leaders to grapple with their role on the world stage as well as the time necessary to embrace a compelling idea that becomes a crusade.
Q: Where is the next challenge in the world that beckons for charismatic leadership?
A: That’s tricky! The sensitivity that charismatic leaders feel for certain
situations is unpredictable. Missions and crusades can last a lifetime. Be rest assured that authentic charismatic leaders are not “fly by night” overnight sensations. Every fiber of their being is geared to a specific cause that has taken a lifetime to align. Look for the person who may be seemingly under the radar, but that a few people have identified as being extremely different in personality and holding passionate, transformational views of the world. He is potentially the next charismatic icon.