Friday, July 23, 2010

Charisma Through Ideas

Often charisma is experiential based on the connection between the charismatic leader and followers. But, could charismatic leaders be detached from adherents and connect purely through ideas? Weisberg (2010) asserts that there is a difference between the charismatic traits of Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush, Reagan and Obama. Clinton, Bush and Reagan were described as “relaters” in that they made visceral or deep connections with the people they came in contact with through shared experiences and common interests. A great deal of their political savvy was attached to this ability to “feel the other person’s pain.” However, Obama is described as cool, aloof, detached, not warm, and highly analytical. Supporters are more enamored with his ideas than his connectivity. If this description of Obama is correct, how does this bode with the idea of his being charismatic?

Such a notion actually upends the traditional concept of charisma as a driving force based on sheer magnetism. If ideas can be described as charismatic, what is more important, the message or the messenger? Ideally, the pure charismatic is a combination of both. He can arouse audiences with a compelling idea through sheer passion and steel determination as well as conceptualize the larger vision. To the point, either President Obama fits squarely into the Charismatic leadership model albeit less of a connector than Clinton, Bush and Reagan, has some traits of charismatic leaders, but is not a full- fledged charismatic or charismatic ideas stand on their own devoid of the charismatic personality. If research suggests that the prototypical charismatic leader has a compelling vision as well as passionate oratory, than the message is only part of the total picture. In reading Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams from My Father,” there is no evidence that Obama has a mesmerizing personality nor had a far reaching vision such as that demonstrated by Adolph Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. In fact, there is no evidence provided in “Dreams from My Father” that Obama had political ambitions, let alone aspirations for the presidency. This is in stark contrast to Bill Clinton’s political aspirations in David Marinnass’ book, “First in His Class.”

The compelling passion of an overarching vision is so intertwined that one would be hard pressed to determine where the idea begins and where the passion articulated by the charismatic leader ends. All told, President Obama would probably best fit into the category of possessing some charismatic traits of charismatic leaders, but not a full-fledge charismatic. As articulated in the movie, “V for Vendetta,” ideas are perspectives. Without the will, passion and fortitude of the charismatic leader, ideas mean nothing in the long run. Action is the active ingredient for moving a mere idea to its ultimate manifestation.

Can ideas be charismatic? Only when the will of a leader is committed to an overarching vision tailored to the need of the people who believe the time has come and waiting would engender a missed opportunity.

Related: Charisma


Weisberg, J. (2010 Feb. 1). Alone in a crowd. Newsweek, Vol. 155, Issue 5, p. 14-14, 1p.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Raw Charisma of Mike Tyson, Mickey Rourke and Bobby Brown: A Case Study

What is it about boxer Mike Tyson, actor Mickey Rourke and singer Bobby Brown that keep audiences on the edge of their seat anytime these men give an interview or tie themselves to a project? If you say “charisma,” then we have to review how do these men’s charisma differ from the likes of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama? Or even a fellow entertainer like actor Denzel Washington. How do Tyson, Rourke and Brown compare to carefully crafted images of Clinton, Obama and Washington? If charisma requires a certain level of finesse, the former characters have found a way of assuaging difficult situations with a sense of flair. defines “finesse” in part as: “skill in handling a difficult or highly sensitive situation; adroit and artful management; a trick, artifice, or stratagem.” In short, Tyson, Rourke and Brown have used sheer personality, great will and shrewd ambition to meld their brand of charisma into a synergistic, seemingly edgy concept. No matter what level of professional success each achieved, they seemed to be unfazed by the glitz and glamour that attaches itself to marquee athletes and entertainers. For these men, they would be equally entertaining and mesmerizing even if the klieg lights were off. It is easy to suggest celebrity as the cause for audience interest. But, they are not buffoons or charlatans attempting to extend their 15 minutes of fame. No, they interact on the world stage as if success and money are incidental to a higher purpose, not always clearly understood by the populous. As they attempt to exorcise their personal demons, their honed professional craft is used to exercise the muscles of the internal battle.

In a recent Detail magazine interview, when asked about his bout with Evander Holyfield, Tyson said:

“Man, I didn't care about boxing anymore. I was wrong to do that—all wrong—all crazy to do that. But that wasn't about boxing. I just wanted to f--king maim him. I had no business being in that ring. A year out of prison, 16 months out of prison, already with two belts to defend? I had no business with those belts. I was already done. They put you, a writer, in prison, for three years, hands tied behind your back. Then they put you up against some hack, and you outwrite him, and they give you two awards. And then I put you up against a Nobel Prize winner? Absurd.”

Bobby Brown talks about his need for control and focus:

“I like being in control of making all the major decisions pertaining to my projects. That`s something that you don`t get to do in a group. Everything has to be voted on - every minor decision.

“I could really care less about what they think about me, but at the same time, I do have something to prove.”

Mickey Rourke talks about his career and choices:

“A couple of guys won Academy Awards for the things that I turned down. Today, after coming to terms with everything, after being in therapy for a long time-there are areas where I will compromise.”

“What I've got to do now is let them judge me for who I am as an actor and not for my notoriety.”

The raw charisma of Tyson, Rourke and Brown emanates from intense authenticity with incomparable ambition. Their focus is the pureness of their craft and inner voice rather than image management. In this regard, they are freer than Clinton, Obama and Washington to push their creativity and thus their charisma to the limit.


Bobby Brown Quotes. Lucy.Com, Retrieved from:

Mickey Rourke Quotes. Brainy Quote. Retrieved from :

Solotaroff,I. (2010 August). Everything you think you know about Mike Tyson is wrong. Details Magazine,Retrieved from:

Related: Charisma

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Charismatic Leadership: Loved By Some, Hated By Others

Recently, I had Brenda Neckvatal, author of a white paper on charismatic leadership, as a guest on my online radio show, Charisma live. Brenda’s research echoed much of what I had discovered about charismatic leadership and so I wanted her to elaborate further. As we discussed her findings, she was pretty candid about having some misgivings about the traits characterized by charismatic personalities; mainly, extreme narcissism, rebuking anyone who disagrees or pushes back against them, a missionary zeal and manipulation (my addition). Initially, as Brenda discovered these traits during her early research, she decided these traits were not ideal. Later, as she analyzed the conceptual framework of charismatic personalities, she begin to expand her paradigmatic predilections to accept that charismatic personalities were a special breed and contributed greatly despite those traits that were antithetical to mainstream thinking. Largely, she followed the data to determine, what, if any real value, charismatic leadership contributed to organizations. We also agreed that charismatics caused schisms among people, because as one segment of the population loved charismatics and their contributions, the other half of the population abhorred their symbolism. The dichotomy came with an understanding that for every benefit to a group of individuals, the same benefit often proves disadvantageous to another group. Consequently, trying to please everyone proved erroneous and shortsighted.

The take away for students of charismatic leadership is to be fully aware and prepared to be loved and despised if you become immersed in an idea that you believe to be transformational. Charismatics accept this truism, although like anyone else, they would wish to be loved and accepted by all.

To listen to the show in its entirety, link to:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Charisma: The Human Will

A client, Stan, recently asked me why I did not talk about any other topics other than “charisma” and “Charismatic leadership.” I casually asked, “What other topics would you be willing to pay for?” Stan laughed and said, “Is it about money?” I then chuckled and said, “If you had mentioned a desire to know about another subject, other than charisma, I would have referred you to someone else.” He continued with,” Would you leave an opportunity to grow your business on the table?” I said, “If the subject does not have some relativity to charisma, I would have to leave it on the table.” He walked away puzzled as we set up an appointment for our next training. I thought about the look on Stan’s face as he left and decided to call him later to inquire further.

As Stan picked up the telephone after about two rings, I said,” Hello Stan this Ed Brown, is this a good time to talk?” He said, “Sure, what’s up?” I said, “I was thinking about our conversation earlier and I couldn’t get that look you gave me out of my mind. After I told you I would pass up an opportunity, if it didn’t fit my specialty, you seemed confused. Just curious, why the look?” Stan responded, “Well Ed, it is an economic recession and I know, as probably you do, there are a lot of people out of work. They would die to grab any opportunity they could to feed their families and pay their bills. You came across as beyond all that as if you couldn’t find yourself in a similar situation.” I paused a few seconds, because I didn’t realize Stan had emotionalized my response to that extent. I carefully considered his words and said,” Stan, I can understand your feelings and I was not, under any circumstances, trying to demean those who are unemployed. Of course, I could be in similar situation, if fortune was against me. But, do you know how long I’ve been pursuing my dream to find a concept and a plan that I could commit my life to? Stan asked, “How long?” I said, “30 years.” He said, “30 years? You’re not even that old.” I said “I’ve been looking for the one thing that would separate me from everyone else, since I was a child. I was influenced by everything in 1970’s from Super Fly to Evel Knievel. From Earth, Wind & Fire to Parliament-Funkadelic. Once I realized who created these surreal emotions as a child, I needed to know how they did it. When I determined that all of these influences had a high degree of charisma, that’s all I wanted to study. You came to me, because you found my work on the Internet. Do you think you would have found me if I talked about different subjects with no passion for either?” Stan said, “Maybe, if you were in different arenas, you would be known for different things.” I concluded by saying, “Stan, the days of being a Jack-of-all-trades, master of none are over. It’s just too many people trying to grab the megaphone spewing mere opinions with no research, background or homework. You pay me the price of my services, because I eat, sleep and drink charisma. If I died tomorrow, my body of work and system of thought would surpass anyone who has not spent years developing a compelling idea. I do not worry about the economy, because my lifestyle and commitment to my work will always allow my mind to create opportunities no matter the financial forecast or conditions. What you perceived as arrogance was a testament to the human will of a determined mind.”

Stan grew silent. I said, “Stan, are you still there?” He said,”Yeah Ed, I’m here. What you said inspired me. Rarely do I meet people who have settled on their own truth and drawn a line in the sand daring anyone to cross it.” I said,” When you get to that point by finding something that gives you a sense of purpose, nothing else matters…not money, people or things.” Stan seemed to become a bit rushed and weary. He said,” Ed, I’ll see you at our next appointment, I have to go.” I said, “What’s up? Are you okay?” He said,”Yeah, you gave me an idea for a plan I’ve been holding off for a long time. If I don’t get to it now, I probably never will.” I asked, “Can you talk about it?” Stan said,”Ed, your passion and words make talking at this point, a dead subject. I have to do it. I’ll tell you about it the next meeting.” I said, “Okay, take care.”

The next few sessions, Stan would be elusive about his project saying, “You’ll see when it’s done.” To date, I don’t know what Stan has up his sleeves, but not only has he referred other clients to me, he has added more sessions to his contract. I don’t believe the weak shall inherit the earth, I truly believe the world belongs to the brave and courageous.

Related: Charisma