Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Charm vs. Charisma

Quite often, people confuse charm, magnetism and charisma. In fact, they use the terms interchangeably. It is understandable how this could be the case, but a bit of demarcation of the terms is necessary. The Core Edge Image & Charisma (Core Edge) define “Charisma” as “The creating of perceptions that impact the mind and emotions of others through flair, finesse and glib language.” In other words, charisma is the ability to capture the hearts and minds of people through the use of compelling self-expression. One of the tools used by charismatics is charm. defines “Charm” as “The power or quality of pleasing or delighting; attractiveness…” Charismatics have a high prescience about human nature and people. As a result, they use charm to enchant the emotional aspect of individuals. This enchantment serves as a magnet for charismatics to attract others. Invariably, charismatics are comfortable and confident in their ability to persuade people by understanding what makes them “tick.” Charisma as such is a mindset, philosophy, paradigm and position on the world stage. Core Edge defines the comprehensiveness of charisma under the banner, ”Charismatolgy,” which is the study of charisma in all its dimensions.

For many theoreticians, charisma has been like “trying to catch air in a bottle.” The intangibility leads many to provide random opinions without the forethought of empirical data or case studies on popular charismatics. By understanding the charismatic personality and his manifestations, the layman can actually use some of the tools of charismatic’s for greater influence on the world stage.

For more information, visit: Charisma

Charisma Unchecked

The shortcoming of many leadership models is that they view human nature idealistically at its core. This overly optimistic view of people often leaves the aspiring leader insufficiently equipped to build upon. The effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a belief system is determined by what emanates from its core that affects the desired results. Most religious reformers like John Wesley, founder of the Methodist faith, based their religious zeal on the notion that man is decadent and through a higher power he can only be saved. Man left to his own devices would wreak havoc on the world much more than he has without the buffer of religion, laws and governance. While the temperament of man among other members of the animal kingdom, may not be the most destructive (scientists have said that the temperament of a baboon is such that it would nuke the whole world if it had the capacity), the consequences of his decadence is evident throughout the world. There is no true utopia where all are treated justly and fair. Every economic system throughout the world has its version of the "Haves" and the "Have-Nots".

To be totally responsible and accountable for one's lot in life comes with great toil. This is the kind of work that most people would rather pass on to someone else. Whether it's dictatorships or representative forms of governments, the citizenry ultimately opts for those who aspire to govern, so that they may pursue their leisurely lives in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Charismatic leadership fills the void because the leader is willing to do what the next man is unwilling to do. The idea of transformational leader calls for leaders to "get inside" the people they are trying to influence. The Ohio State Leadership Center online newsletter, Leadership Discoveries warns against the abuses of leaders having charismatic appeal: A leader's use of power reflects integrity.

Leaders who lack integrity can rely upon deceit and manipulative methods to get people to follow their agendas for the leader's benefit alone. Power becomes a potential danger if leaders have their focus on themselves or on building resources alone rather than on building their followers (Bass & Steidlmeir, 1999). Two of the most obvious perils in leadership are pride and egoism (Sanders, 1994). The Leadership Discoveries newsletter goes on to suggest that leaders and organizations may institute safeguards to prevent against such abuses. While this is a great notion, the circular logic that continues asks the question of the role and responsibility of the individual to become astute enough to protect himself.
Remember, human nature consistently operates from its own self interest, it only is altruistic when it engages in "hard-core" altruism for a small cadre of close-knit individuals and the majority of people opt to let others make their decisions for them, because of life's choices have rendered them incapable of being as vigilant. With all these dynamics occurring simultaneously, we are still requiring leaders to check themselves, not for people to check the leaders. The patriarchal notion that people need to be "fathered" is part and parcel why again charismatic leadership gets a bad rap. Charisma leaders should be accountable and responsible, but undue trust and allegiance should never go unchecked.

Related: Charisma

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Charisma in the Modern World

Niccolo Machiavelli, Alexander Hamilton and Napoleon Bonaparte are just a few of the progenitors of modern day charisma. Under “Charismatology,” (the study of charisma), charisma is not only a manifesting of self-expression, but a whole worldview. To determine a true charismatic, one must look at the total human being’s self -expression, biology, environmental conditioning and insecurities. The charismatic has a personal philosophy, ideology, theme and objective for shaping public opinion and making the world bend to his will. Power is a core motivating factor for charismatics, not only for narcissistic objectives, but because charismatics feel their ideas are better. The will to power separates the charismatic leader from all other leadership forms. Through sheer will and personality, the charismatic leader uses hybrid approaches best suited for the situation in achieving a goal. In this notion, the charismatic is “amoral”, closest to Nietzsche’s idea of the “Amoral Super Man.” To the charismatic, he has become a god. Before eminent sociologist Max Weber secularized “charisma,” it was a religious concept literally meaning in Greek, “Grace or gift in action”. The modern charismatic has self-deified the term to reconcile it with its spiritual roots. Only, today’s charismatic sees himself as the Alpha and Omega of its original higher-power form as a literal manifestation. Whether it is a charismatic politician or a charismatic cleric, he feigns praying to a Supreme Being when he is mentally praying to himself.

Related: Charisma

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Objectifying Charisma

Why is defining "charisma" so elusive? Why do researchers make the same mistake when researching "charisma" as a concept? Why isn't more research done on the genesis of charismatic personalities? In short, rarely is charisma approached scientifically, that is psychologically using empirical data. Typically, a researcher will compile questions to a focus group or random sample asking them their views on charismatic personalities. The common responses will be pared down until a few identified traits remain. These remaining traits will be the foundational attributes given to charismatic personalities. What's wrong with this model? Nothing on the surface! A similar method is used to determine the electability of political candidates. Surprisingly, it's been reported that 800 people surveyed randomly are an accurate reading of what 300 million people are thinking. Essentially, it's a start to characterizing the potential attributes for charisma, but not what makes it work. For example, how was Elvis Presley's charisma formulated? Muhammad Ali? Michael Jordan? Muammar Quadafi? What is the thinking behind charismatic figures who revolutionize an industry through sheer personality and self-expression? Moreover, is charisma required to revolutionize an industry? Is Tiger Woods charismatic? How about the Williams Sisters in tennis? One might surmise that charisma and revolutionaries are mutually exclusive.

If traits like insecurity, ego and visions of grandeur are parts of the charismatic personality, shouldn't they be closely researched to determine its viability? How does insecurity fit into the charismatic attribute if society extols the virtue of confidence? Could societal defined traits purported to being negative actually be an essential trait for charisma? Metaphorically speaking, instead of separating the chaff from the wheat, is the chaff and wheat necessary for charismatic personalities to develop? The overly idealistic or "Polly Anna" defining of charisma won't bring more clarity, only further ambiguity. A phenomenon with such potency on the world stage should not be fraught with so much ambiguity.

For more information, visit: Charisma

Friday, May 1, 2009

Charisma & The Creating of Icons

The notion of icons is deeply imbedded within the psyche of most cultures. People often look for identification greater than their individual existence. These icons generally take on religious or mythological forms. The ideas behind Santa Clause, the Bogey Man and the Tooth Fairy have iconic impressions that serve to impact behavior. In short, icons serve not only as belief systems, but a means of altering or maintaining specific behavior.

Inherently, most products and services strive to become icons. No one really wants to spend the rest of his or her life attempting to convince individuals of the merit surrounding an idea. Detergent X is better for clothes because it not only gets the dirt out, it restores clothing to its original luster. If Detergent X can take on iconic or mythic meaning, than Detergent B does not stand a chance. Detergent B is not only challenging a product, but a way of life. Imagine you or your product being a way of life. Most people, products or services never become icons because there are certain criteria necessary to graduate to this level. The same notion is applied for graduating from Star to Superstar to Megastar to Legend.

Legendary status qualifies for becoming an icon. Becoming an icon is a process requiring a concerted effort with relentless determination. Establishing icon status requires certain steps to be achieved, which require:

Revolutionizing/changing the thinking of a particular idea, product or service-- It isn't the "me-too" mentality that brings about revolutions, but the "never been done before" mentality. If you see voids within your industry that experts say are necessary, you have just embarked on an opportunity for innovation. What opportunities exist to expand worldviews or differentiate a product or service being offered? Answers to this question, brings forth watershed events. It is much more challenging to revolutionize an industry than it is to follow the status quo. Largely, complacency and mediocrity are the nemesis to becoming an icon.

Capturing imaginations through constant and consistent imagery--Quite often, you may capture the imagination of individuals through graphic depiction or acute profundity. In other words, you get their attention through the pictures you create from the words you utter! Once the mind has been elevated, it creates perceptions from stimuli that stretches and ultimately influences thought and behavior. If you can spark the imagination of others to see the world from your viewpoint, you can impact behavior, which enhances iconic status.

Maintaining innovation over a long period of time--Longevity is the hallmark for becoming an icon. "Quick buck artists" and "Overnight sensations" are not the model for icons. It is a long, arduous process that withstands the test of time. While there is no set time, icons usually span two or more generations. Each generation is influenced differently, because the icon evolves to reflect the relevancy of that age group. While the icon may curtail its innovation, its track record is sufficient to draw on for an indeterminate amount of time. An icon often has enough reserves to continue to influence generations to come.

Creating stories and fables around exploits-- Icons take on mythological forms by the aura created around them. Fables are created out of real life triumphs that become bigger than life when sparked by the imagination. Many great stories are based on some truth that becomes legendary though exaggerated repetition. What was once a simple act of perseverance takes on epic proportions of insurmountable feats. Every icon has a story of trial, defeat and final triumph that encapsulates the human spirit.

At the height of frenzy, become elusive and inaccessible--Humans as icons often stay in the limelight too long. The iconic idea is that of a good performance--always leave audiences wanting more! An icon preserves a memory as he or she preserves an image. It is essential to exit or become elusive while still on top. Once you stay too long and human frailties emerge, the icon diminishes. By becoming elusive and inaccessible, the crowd craves you more when all that's left are the innovations, images and stories.

Becoming an icon requires a concerted effort steeped in relentless determination. The scarcity of icons is not because of its impossibility. The scarcity exists due to the time, dedication and energy needed to excel to such a level. A life committed to an undying desire to achieve the ultimate within an industry is open to all.

Related: Charisma