Monday, May 30, 2011

Charisma: Men, Women, & the Will to Power

Dear Mr. Brown:

Recently, I read an article you wrote suggesting that charisma and charismatic leadership were concepts more male-oriented than female- centered. I was livid over your comments! However, after my husband read the article, he gave me a different perspective on charisma, men, and power. I can’t say that I am totally comfortable with this difference, but I can appreciate your candor. For some reason, I still feel a bit of sexism in the distinction of men being more prone to charisma than women. Is there a middle ground?

Wendy Henderson
San Francisco, CA

Dear Mrs. Henderson:

Thank you for your passionate comments. For some time I wrestled with my analysis on how charisma played out between men and women. Initially, I tried to be politically correct by making it equal to both genders, but felt that I was not being totally honest about the research surrounding charisma. Nietzsche spoke of the “Amoral Superman” replacing the concept of a God figure. My interpretation of Nietzsche’s concept suggested that unflinching, ambitious men would capture the imagination of the masses and become the idol that society worshipped. Ultimately, this has happened. In a sense, powerful and ambitious men have become deified replacing God as a figurehead. This will- to- power is evident in a patriarchal world where naked aggression is acceptable among men, but denounced among women. When I ask groups of men and women to name charismatic individuals, names such as: Former President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, Denzel Washington, and Oprah Winfrey top the list. As I delve deeper into what makes these individuals charismatic to the audience, terms like: Great communicator, empathy and magnetism are suggested. However, as I inquire further about Oprah’s purported charisma compared to the men on the list, viewpoints begin to change from charisma to engaging, empathetic and inspirational. Although Oprah’s success hinges on media power, her brand is inspirational, not power. She emphasizes strength and empowerment, but not power and control per se. At the core of charismatic men is the acquisition and maintenance of power using communication, engagement and inspiration as a means of achieving it. Rarely would charismatic men appear as accessible and vulnerable as Oprah Winfrey. As a matter of fact, appearing vulnerable to that degree is oppositional to the concept of power in a patriarchal society. Although it may be changing, studies suggest that even women envision men in charismatic leadership roles over other women.

Power, control, mission, aggression, tenacity, crusade, etc… are often terms relegated to the motives of men, which serve as the basis for charismatic men having a deeper interest and proclivity to these terms. Women exercise a different type of power that would not fit within the charismatic leadership model. However, pundits have not stopped placing women like Oprah in the charismatic leadership category. At this point, I respectfully disagree with the experts that opt to do so.

Edward Brown
Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute

For more information, visit: Charisma

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Charismatic Leadership: One Size Does Not Fit All

Dear Mr. Brown:

I came across one of your articles where you suggest that charismatic leadership is most suitable when a company is in crisis mode. If what you say is true, can you draw the conclusion that most companies do not have charismatic CEOs at the helm, because most companies are stable? As a result, are out- of- work charismatic leaders running around looking for companies to save?

Julian Christianson
Montreal, Canada

Dear Mr. Christianson:

Thank you for posing an intellectual challenge. Yes, research suggests that charismatic leaders are most beneficial for companies during crisis situations or times of uncertainty. However, there is a difference between the most ideal time for charismatic leaders to flourish and the basic effectiveness of charismatic leaders in general. If business is about people management and profitability, charismatic leadership is generally effective despite the stability of a company. For examples, let’s say a corporation’s quarterly profit reports have been steadily increasing, but the Research & Development (R&D) division has been slow in creating innovative products and services. Although the overall company is healthy, a charismatic leader may jumpstart the R& D division to create groundbreaking products and services. Charismatic leaders are often passionate about ideas and new challenges. There will never be a shortage of problems and challenges within a company that does not necessitate a charismatic leader rising to the occasion.

At the end of the day, charismatic leaders are not skulking around looking for companies to save. Charismatic leaders are visionaries looking for opportunities to put their ideas to work that are a part of a long-term mission.

Related: Charisma

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Charisma & Self-Love

Hello Mr. Brown:

I read a recent article where you made a correlation between charismatic personalities and narcissism. Do you believe that all charismatic people are narcissistic?

Phillip Roman
New Haven, CT

Dear Mr. Roman:

Thank you for your inquiry. As I have noted in previous letters, I study historical data to isolate patterns of behavior among charismatic personalities. I try to stay away from absolutes, but one of the major traits I have found with genuine charismatic personalities is a great deal of self-love. This self-love is not inherently a negative characteristic. However, it can become destructive when the charismatic person’s major drive in life is self-gratification at the exclusion of any other considerations. I would go as far as to suggest that narcissism is more pronounced within charismatic people than average individuals. I am comfortable making that sweeping generalization, because the goal of bona fide charismatic personalities is often to complete some overarching mission or crusade. Whether it is creating a new religion or designing a new sports car, the drive, intensity and passion required to complete such a task requires a certain level of self-possession and self-absorption.

In the mind of the charismatic individual, he is the only one who can bring an idea to fruition. The mission or crusade begins in the mind of the charismatic person and will not be deterred by outside influences. Such intensity requires an inner focus that often precludes external considerations. To the charismatic person, he knows more than everyone else, because he has imagined his greatness far before embarking upon his mission.

Edward Brown
Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute

Monday, May 9, 2011

Charisma, Power & Control

Dear Mr. Brown/Core Edge:

I have read your previous blogs and viewed your You Tube videos on charisma where you focus a great deal of attention on charismatic individuals needing power and control. I’m not sure I totally agree with your philosophy about charismatic people needing the level of power and control you suggest. I would go as far as to say that people like Hitler, Gadhafi and maybe even Fidel Castro may fit this mode, but I personally know charismatic people who appear not to be driven by power. Do you think you have overly generalized in your analysis?

Saul Goldberg
Buffalo, NY

Dear Mr. Goldberg:

Thank you for your insightful observations. When discussing the needs and behavior of charismatic individuals, I tend to look at historical and present day figures qualitatively to assess their paradigms and psychodynamics for pattern formulation. Obviously, charismatic individuals are different in personality as well as overall demeanor, but they do share common traits unique within themselves. For example, basketball great, Michael Jordan had the same cut-throat and relentless desire for power within basketball as Adolph Hitler had for conquering Europe and the world. The colorful stuntman Evel Knievel had the same intensity and drive as the founding father and first Secretary of the Treasury for the United States, Alexander Hamilton. To pierce the veil of what these charismatic individuals were driven by surpasses the conventional thinking of the average citizen. It is easy to confuse charismatic behavioral traits with the genuine charismatic personality. Basketball player Kobe Bryant mimics the skills of Michael Jordan to portray a relentless, charismatic player on the basketball court. However, Kobe Bryant would not be described as charismatic. Individuals may mimic the behavior of charismatic personalities, but not genuinely be charismatic. The manifestation of charismatic traits is different than the inner workings of the charismatic mind. Kobe Bryant is relentless, but does not come from the same core as Michael Jordan. The same would be true of R&B singer Usher versus Michael Jackson or even boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard versus Muhammad Ali. The core of Jordan, Jackson and Ali was to self-actualize or become all they could be within their industries. Whether the dominating effect these individuals had on their industries was motivated by a quest for power or power is a result of a dominating effect, their desire to excel at the highest heights brought about influence they used for business and political interests. To this extent, they were conquerors not unlike Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan.

Arguably, what people view as charisma within others is advanced interpersonal relationship skills. Michael Jordan, Evel Knievel, Michael Jackson and Muhammad Ali used personal power that transformed the industry where they reigned. Their level of power controlled the standard of which individuals afterwards would be judged. Power and control were not only internal motivators, but a means of reshaping worldviews. These charismatic individuals taught the world how to imagine and as a result, how to bring imagination into reality.

There is a huge difference between an individual who draws you in with passion, great stories and advanced oratorical skills versus one who transforms the world.

Edward Brown
Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute

For more information, visit:  Charisma

Monday, May 2, 2011

Charisma, Barack Obama & the Death of Osama bin Laden

By Edward Brown

This Q & A session discusses the impact of strategy for enhancing political charisma on the world stage.

Q: How has the death of Osama bin Laden enhanced President Obama’s charisma?

A: Recent polls suggest that President Obama’s approval rating by Americans is around 47%. At the urging of real estate developer Donald Trump, the White House recently released the long version of President Obama’s birth certificate thwarting the ongoing speculation of Obama’s citizenship, but demonstrating a degree of weakness by divulging this information under pressure. Escalating gas prices and the continued high employment rate necessitated some action that would change the conversation as well as create a sense of achievement for the Obama Administration. Neutralizing Osama bin Laden did that. This one act strengthens Obama’s reelection bid as well as increase his fundraising efforts.

Q: Is the killing of bin Laden merely a political move to curry favor with the American people?

A: If most things are predicated upon a political agenda, killing bin Laden is a political act. Contemporary politics is not only about the distribution of resources, but the marketing of political candidates. Symbolically and inspirationally, neutralizing bin Laden at this time, pays off politically and creates the perception that Americans are safer and that President Obama is a strong, decisive leader. In street vernacular, Obama gets “Cool Points.”

Q: Is charisma about using lives to facilitate an objective?

A: Charismatic leaders are consistently Machiavellian in their actions. Yes, they implement strategies to affect a specific outcome even if lives are expended in the interim. One would be naïve to believe a message of hope does not come with the price of death on occasion.

Q: Why is a Machiavellian notion surrounding charisma difficult for people to accept?

A: People have a hard time accepting the reality that everything in life comes with a price and that there is an upside and downside to everything. Although people understand intellectually that everything has a price, it is problematic for them to accept emotionally.

Q: So, is President Obama’s charisma enhanced when the right person is killed for the right reason?

A: That’s a challenging question. It really depends on the situation. There is talk in journalistic circles that Middle Eastern countries who are allies of the United States are looking towards Russia and China for future alliances, because of the loss of confidence by Middle Eastern allies in American foreign policy. Although Libya is in Africa, cultural and geographic similarities with the Middle East put the neutralization of Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi on the same trajectory. President Obama’s election promise to “reset” global relations was interpreted by some regimes as an act of weakness. Charismatic leadership is weakened without fear and the threat of reprisals for acts against American interests. This goes to show that militarily, there is no difference between a Republican president versus a Democratic president. The rules apply across the board.

Q: So, does charisma exceed merely creating good feelings among people?

A: Charismatic leaders realize that people act on emotions and justify their actions through mental reasoning. Even when charismatic leaders have to exercise the most diabolical and heinous acts for a specific outcome, they have to insulate their message with emotional considerations for the audience they serve. To do otherwise, even when the cause is correct, goes against fulfilling the emotional needs of charisma leaders’ constituency.

For more information, visit:  Charisma