Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rethinking the Psychodynamics of Charismatic Leadership

Edward Brown, M.S.

Researchers have criticized the charismatic leadership model for not creating transformational leaders that thrive independently, but building self-absorbed charlatans.  Other pundits suggest that, although charismatic leaders inspire loyalty within employees and followers, charismatic leaders use people as pawns for their ambition. 

Using Daniel Halper’s book, Clinton, Inc., as a reference point, Edward Brown, M.S., of Core Edge Police Professional Development, provides questions and answers about the impact of charismatic leadership on interpersonal relationships and organizational development.

Q: What has your latest research uncovered about the psychodynamics of charismatic leadership?

Brown: Past research suggests that charismatic leaders are narcissists, but to what extent was not qualified. This current research goes deeper into the inner sanctum of the charismatic mindset. 

Q: So how narcissistic are charismatic leaders?

Brown: Extremely. My research shows that former President Bill Clinton is known as a very engaging and awe-inspiring speaker, but the dispensability he has for people is outlined in Halper’s, Clinton, Inc.  Halper asserted that Clinton can be extremely cold and dispassionate towards individuals that have outlived their usefulness to him.  This assessment is in line with many of the charismatic leaders in history. They have an unusual need to be adored and see themselves as self-proclaimed heroes.  This lineage extends from Alexander the Great to Bill Clinton.

Q: What impact does narcissism have on the charismatic leadership model?

Brown:  It sheds light on the thinking and behavior of many charismatic leaders despite their illusions. The love people have for charismatic leaders is mutually beneficial. Charismatic leaders need to be esteemed by others who have a great desire to worship a person or idea larger than themselves. Philosopher Thomas Carlyle said that humans were hard-wired for hero worship. For balance, it is important to realize the strengths and weaknesses of any leadership model.

Q: What’s the upside of charismatic leadership within law enforcement?

Brown: Charismatic leaders are effective at building morale and creating enthusiasm. Officers will go the extra mile for supervisors that inspire them. The challenge of charismatic leaders is to ensure that officers don’t see their “Dark Side” as well as their naked ambition.  The emotionality that charismatic leaders engender has more affect on followers than their less charismatic counterparts.

Q:  Is there a qualitative metric for determining whether someone falls into the charismatic leadership category?

Brown: The Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute defines Charismatic Leadership as "A leadership model where personality, relentless determination and creativity are the basis for persuading and influencing individuals toward productivity and/or profitability."

A complete qualitative measure for charismatic leadership would entail the following: 

• A transformation of standard thinking or operations within an industry or profession
• Little to no distinction between the individual’s personality and the service or product
• The creation of memorable experiences, which would ordinarily be viewed as mundane
• A seismic shift within the organization or the people around the leader
• The challenge to conventional wisdom
• A love/hate relationship with the leader
• Leadership emulation without compunction

Because charismatic leaders are performance driven, the upside to their personalities is the ability to leave indelible marks on organizational development. The late Steve Jobs’ impact on Apple comes to mind despite his purported volatile temper.

Edward Brown, M.S., is a researcher and lead instructor for Core Edge Police Professional Development.  Ed is a former Atlanta police officer and has trained command staff and supervisors throughout the U.S. on communication and leadership development skills.

He has advanced legal training from the University of Dayton School of Law and a master’s degree from Mercer University in Public Safety Leadership.

Ed is the author of nine books including: Police Leadership: The Morale Driven Police Department and The A-Team: How to Be a Top Police Department in Recruiting, Training and Retaining Employees available at Amazon Kindle.