Edward Brown, M.S., of Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute provides questions and answers on the characteristics of charismatic leaders.
Q: How do you go about dissecting the characteristics and inner workings of charismatic leaders?
Brown: Essentially, I look at the historical data by individuals who used their personality and tenacity to either transform or create an industry that initially operated in a traditional fashion. This data may come from case studies, secondary research in periodicals, documentaries, or biographies.
Q: What other sources do you draw from?
Brown: The key disciplines I base the foundation of my research on charismatic leadership are psychology, sociology, philosophy, history, and religion.
Q: Why does your research focus more on the inner workings (psychology) of charismatic leaders rather than what they are doing?
Brown: Most of the work done about charismatic leaders attempts to describe what charismatic leaders are doing with minimum explanation as to the cause. I am fascinated by the thought of exploring the deeper psychodynamics of charismatic leaders. For example, what if we knew exactly what Adolf Hitler was thinking as he sat in jail writing “Mein Kampf.” Why would Alexander the Great view himself as an epic hero after reading Homer’s “Iliad?” How many people have read “Iliad” in high school, yet are not moved to conquer or dominate an industry? By looking at the needs of charismatic leaders to become world class heroes allows for a deeper understanding of their behavior.
Q: So from all these sources, what are some characteristics of charismatic leaders?
Brown: Some characteristics entail a desire to perform at peak levels and a need to place their imprint on an organization, department or project. There is very little separation between the charismatic leader’s personality and the crusade or mission. The passion of charismatic leaders stem from developing an idea, religion, or organization and bringing it into reality. The charismatic leader’s motto would be the same as General Electric (GE), “We bring good things to life.”
Q: What can be accomplished by emulating the traits and characteristics of charismatic leaders?
Brown: What couldn’t be accomplished? If one was to mimic the visionary, critical thinking, and strategic planning skills of charismatic leaders, there is nothing the individual could not accomplish within his or her profession. He or she could literally construct a new life by following the guidelines of charismatic leaders.
Q: What is the downside of the epic hero mindset of charismatic leaders?
Brown: There is very little gray area in alternatives. Once a charismatic leader has done the critical analysis of an issue by weighing the pros and cons, there is no turning back or room for negotiating. The charismatic leader views his course as the Holy Grail. Individuals providing opposing options might be looked upon by the charismatic leader as mere mortals commenting on divine things. Charismatic leaders are quite vainglorious when it comes to their mission in life.
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