Friday, February 27, 2009

A Comment on Seth Godin

The most salient part of a recent interview by marketer Seth Godin's was the statement,"...If you want to have an impact, all you can do is lead. You can’t ask." This one statement dismantles the conventional wisdom of traditional leadership models, which are full of bromides requiring aspiring leaders to test the water before leaping. Effective leaders, generally, and charismatic leaders, specifically, wield a high level of psychic power, because they latch onto a compelling idea and ride it until the masses finally discover its viability. If the leader had to wait for the populous to decide what is the best direction, best product or best service, there would be no innovations. Great breakthroughs are often counterintuitive. Sigmund Freud talked about the irrationality of individuals and his nephew, Edward Bernays, built the Public Relations industry around this same notion. To truly lead requires a boldness and brashness so acute that one would label the practitioner insane.

Related: Charisma

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr. Used Charisma Strategically

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., may not have used his charisma for diabolical purposes, but is arguable that it was used for strategic purposes in achieving specific objectives.

"…Emphasis on King's charisma conveys the misleading notion of a movement held together by spellbinding speeches and blind faith rather than by a complex blend of rational and emotional bonds. King's charisma did not place him above criticism. Indeed, he was never able to gain mass support for his notion of nonviolent struggle as a way of life, rather than simply a tactic. Instead of viewing himself as the embodiment of widely held Afro-American racial values, he willingly risked his popularity among blacks through his steadfast advocacy of nonviolent strategies to achieve radical social change.
Only those unfamiliar with the Afro-American clergy would assume that his oratorical skills were unique, but King set himself apart from other black preachers through his use of traditional black Christian idiom to advocate unconventional political ideas. Early in his life King became disillusioned with the unbridled emotionalism associated with his father's religious fundamentalism, and, as a thirteen-year-old, he questioned the bodily resurrection of Jesus in his Sunday school class. His subsequent search for an intellectually satisfying religious faith conflicted with the emphasis on emotional expressiveness that pervades evangelical religion. His preaching manner was rooted in the traditions of the black church, while his subject matter, which often reflected his wide-ranging philosophical interests, distinguished him from other preachers who relied on rhetorical devices that manipulated the emotions of listeners. King used charisma as a tool for mobilizing black communities, but he always used it in the context of other forms of intellectual and political leadership suited to a movement containing many strong leaders."1

1 Clayborne Carson, "Martin Luther King Jr.: Charismatic Leadership in a Mass Struggle." Journal of American History 74, (September 1987): 448-454.

For more information, visit: Charisma

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Charisma & The Will to Power

At first glance, the notion of charisma as a self- serving tool might be off-putting. But a closer examination would go to the reason individuals become leaders in the first place. The idealistic model suggests that leaders traditionally assume the leadership baton, because he or she has the best intentions for the perpetuity of civilization in mind. There is no doubt that this may be the case. In both examples, Hitler and Dr. King had the interests of their respective countrymen in mind. They were both responding to the immediate needs and desires of their constituencies. However, both men knew their audiences and what would motivate them towards action. Individuals don't necessary assume leadership roles because they embrace a notion of popular consensus, but because they believe their ideas are better. In short, they will to power to exercise these ideas for self-gratification primarily and for the uplifting of the masses secondarily. Whether it is politicians, clerics or well-meaning individuals, most charismatic leadership as well as other forms of leadership, begin with a compelling idea of supremacy.

This would stand to reason. After all, what would be the need for alternatives, if the status quo was sufficient? The desire for betterment is at the core of human motivation and innovation. Witness the rise of mega churches, with charismatic leadership often the progenitor of its success. What more commentary could individuals provide from biblical scriptures that have been around for two thousand years? The cleric who says he has another point of view by which he builds a church is self- aggrandizing, which invariably leads to congregants accepting his point of view as a guide to a better way of life.

Let's be clear that charismatic leadership, while initiated from the self- interest of the leader, is progressive in that it cuts through the rhetoric of why individuals become leaders in the first place--to achieve a goal and a mission. The general rules for leadership modules have gone off course mainly because it proposes to be politically correct rather than effective. The reason there is a saturation of leadership models with very little leaders is because they largely attempt an overly idealistic reality about human nature. Man was never as good as pundits have asserted. And any criticism on the part of humanity is largely excused in favor of lofty ideas regarding man's inherent design to be "God-like", but consistently falling short of this grace. As man continues to fall off the horse, our hope is that eventually he will become an experienced rider.

Related: Charisma

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Charisma & "The Age of Individualism"

The current "Age of Individualism" has ushered in a new paradigm for leadership development---the charismatic leader. Charisma is defined by as "A spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people." The Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute defines charisma as "The creating of perceptions that impact the mind and emotions of others through flair, finesse and glib langauge."

Charismatic leadership is a form of leadership often discussed in passing, but rarely explored through scholarly measures. It is a controversial form often admired, but also bastardized. Eminent sociologist, Max Weber (1864-1920) is credited for being the first person to demystify the term "charisma." Up until Weber, charisma was viewed as an intangible trait bestowed upon a chosen few. Charisma was seen as a religious term and thus not viewed as possessing secular traits. Weber articulated that charisma was a learned skill set that was the most effective and important among bureaucratic and feudalistic forms of leadership.

Out of these three forms, charismatic leadership had to be earned and cultivated. With bureaucratic leadership or legal-rational, where a person is appointed or elected, the institution rewards the individual who pledges his allegiance to the hierarchy. By showing a degree of competency, that individual may ascend to the top seat. While he needs adequate communication skills and the ability to get along with others, he is largely supported by the infrastructure. With feudalistic or superior/subordinate leadership, power is often inherited and competency is implied. Keeping power and position within the family creates dynasties.

Contrary to these forms, charismatic leadership relies on the will, passion and personality of the individual. He has to sell his ideas and initiatives to the populous to get its buy-in. This leader does not have a hierarchy or infrastructure that supports his leadership. Instead, he rallies support from pure imagination and tenacity. Charismatic leadership is the most difficult type of leadership to achieve and the most challenging to maintain.

Weber talked about the "Routination" of charisma, where charismatic leadership builds institutions purported to outlive the leader. The controversy arises in whether these institutions can survive the mortality of the charismatic leader. Charismatic leadership is the essential model where a person has to literally sell his vision to unbelievers with the hopes of creating behavioral change. In the current "Age of Individualism," the task often appears daunting and insurmountable. The late Maynard H. Jackson, former Atlanta Mayor, once told a group of aspiring leaders that leadership is less about meeting to discuss agendas and more about creating momentum through a compelling idea that people want to follow. The idea that the populous is somehow well versed on the ideal leader is out of step with reality. Charismatic leadership has thrived throughout history because an awe-inspiring personality drives a vision to its manifestation in response to an unmet need within the populous. Witness the charismatic styles of Martin Luther King, Jr. versus Adolph Hitler.

For more information, visit: Charisma

Friday, February 13, 2009

You Can't Handle the Truth!

Much of the paradigms, ideologies and purported truths that we hold as fact are often mere opinions propagated by individuals who are passionate about their subjective truths and espouse it with such passion that it makes us feel like it should be true. Emotions roused by these individuals, who are often characterized as charismatic, have nothing to do with objective truth. Saying what you believe with passion and loudness does not make it true. With a greater level of awareness through reading and analysis, this distinction becomes increasingly clear. People, while disagreeing with a point of view, can appreciate the thought and consideration that went into an opinion versus one that has no semblance of logic. The difference between the two is based on how well read the individual espousing the perspective. Religious movements, civil and even human rights come out of thoughts based on popular sentiments. Out of the great thinkers of history like Emerson, Rosseau and Machiavelli, a person begins to gain greater awareness of the world by living vicariously through these thinkers, compounded with various other disciplines.

While it may be the meek that will inherit the earth, it will be the thinkers that will maintain its existence! Individuals who have pushed the proverbial envelope intellectually, have forged the advancement of human kind by “turning old words into new ones” as noted by William Shakespeare.

Related: Charisma

Monday, February 9, 2009

Charisma: The Art of Reading People

"He who understands the nature and motivations of people, controls the world." As complex as we purport to be, humans really aren't that complex, once we understand their background and experiences. Generally, we are a mixture of genetic encoding and environment influences. As such, while we may not be able to readily decipher an individual's entire psychological make-up, we can infer some conclusions based on environmental background. For example, what conclusions might you draw if you met a person who grew up in a mentally abusive household where the parents would often leave her alone for long periods of time and had a challenging time expressing love? You might conclude that she suffers from bouts of abandonment and may not feel secure in becoming vulnerable through expressing emotions. In fact, she may not even know how to express genuine love. You may say, how can you make that statement, you aren't a psychologist! Professionally, you are correct, but in layman's terms, I am. If you study anything long enough, you do become an expert. Are all psychologists experts in handling the dynamics of people? Do you know a psychologist whose own life needs counseling? Without belaboring the point, you must become in tune with the machinations of people to effectively navigate your will and aspirations.

For more information, visit: Charisma

Thursday, February 5, 2009

As Leadership Models Go, One Size Does Not Fit All

As a proponent of the Charismatic Leadership Model, I believe many of the leadership models popularized today are overly optimistic about human nature. I’ve seen employees take advantage of managers (leaders) who were too kind and went overboard to be empathetic to employee needs. Conversely, I’ve seen managers who were despots become revered by their employees. You can never make bank on the dynamics of individuals in different social/professional settings.

I’m an advocate of first learning the culture of an environment and applying the leadership model best suited for that setting. I also don’t advocate being too “chummy” as you enter the environment. It’s better to enter very strong and later relax as the occasion calls for. To enter trying to be everyone’s friend is a recipe for disaster, particularly, when you have to tighten the screws for discipline later. There is no “one size fits all” for leadership. The personalities and professional level of employees set the stage and the leader acts accordingly.

For more information, visit: Charisma

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nice Guys Finish Last!

To enhance your charisma, you must begin the process of being firm with people and your dealings with them. In The Liberating Factor: Unmasking the Truth About Life, Edward Brown says, "Life is the fairest of them all. It is people that make life unfair when they are given undue influence over others." Quite often, we deal with people collectively; treating everyone the same based on our personal constitution whether they are beneficial or a liability. We lack an adequate filtering process that allows us to keep our inner thoughts and desires pristine from vile, deceitful and decadent individuals. People should be dealt with individually, proving themselves worthy by their words AND actions. When we look back at our history, the telling signs of our personal and professional achievements will be determined by the choices we made through our filtering process. Our relegating individuals to a lofty position before they have proven their value, sets us up to totally act at the behest of their interests over our own.

If we are to begin enhancing our charisma, we must transform how we view the world and the people in it. Henceforth, we will cease to adopt a paradigm that gives people more credit than they deserve. We will start strengthening our position by toughening our mental acuity. No longer should we hold unrealistic perspectives about the world. We will remain prudently optimistic and openly realistic about the machinations of the world and human nature.

Related: Charisma