In this Q & A session, researcher on charisma and charismatic leadership, Edward Brown of Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute, provides insight into charisma and the charismatic mind.
Q: What makes you an expert on charisma?
A: Essentially, I’ve written several books, articles and provided numerous interviews on charisma as a result of a decade of research as well as my ongoing study in this area.
Q: Do you have to be charismatic to talk about charisma?
A: No, not necessarily. Interesting enough, people don’t mind putting me on the spot by asking me if I see myself as being charismatic. I think I was more charismatic before I started researching charisma and charismatic leadership. My intellectual pursuits have made me more analytical, which has taken away some of the magnetism I once possessed.
Q: Interesting, how did that happen?
A: By looking within the inner workings of charismatic personalities, I saw that they could be cold, calculating, focused, disciplined, but also great actors for generating support from followers. The more I engaged in the intellectual side of charisma, the less acting I opted to do.
Q: What has been the result of your not being a good actor?
A: I didn’t say I wasn’t a good actor. I merely opted to spend more time in the laboratory and less time manifesting charisma on the world stage.
Q: Is reclusiveness a part of the charismatic mindset?
A: Reclusion can be a part of the charismatic mindset. Particularly, when he is building momentum for a specific mission. As a visionary, the charismatic personality lives in the field of ideas and parlays these ideas into action once the time is right. He spends more time in isolation and thinking than people realize.
Q: Do you have examples when charismatic personalities have sparked their genius in isolation and later astounded the world with their brilliance.
A: Adolf Hitler wrote his autobiography” Mein Kampf” in prison, which is a great treatise on power. Many of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.’s greatest speeches were written in jail. Malcolm X was resurrected during his stint in prison. Nelson Mandela’s evolution took place while in prison.
Q: So, does one have to be imprisoned to become a charismatic leader?
A: Not necessarily, but isolation forces the individual, who has the traits of a charismatic leadership, to focus inwardly to begin thinking about a far reaching mission. Such insightful thinking would have been difficult with other responsibilities taking priority.
Q: Pundits have panned charismatic leadership as being more show than substance. Is the charismatic personality more show or substance?
A: I would suggest that ostentation or “showiness” is the manifestation of the substance behind a compelling idea. The flair and finesse of charismatic personalities stem from the passion, energy, and imagination of the charismatic personality. Take away the flair and finesse and you merely have a compelling idea that may or may not be acted upon.
Q: If you had to choose between the charisma of President Barack Obama and that of former President Bill Clinton, who of the two men has the more compelling charisma?
A: Although the two men have extraordinary political skills, President Bill Clinton is a bonafide charismatic personality for a few reasons. One, Clinton had a far reaching vision and plan for politics long before running for office. Second, Clinton opponents after meeting with him marveled at his magnetism and political insights. Third, the Clinton Administration demonstrated the highs and lows indicative of charismatic leadership. Clinton brought out visceral emotions within people. Contrarily, President Obama is very likeable, but has been described by insiders as cold and detached. For many, it is difficult to separate Obama’s historical significance as the first black president of the U.S. as well as the most powerful black man in the history of civilization with that of authentic charisma.
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