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I hope they will forgive me for the simplifications that result, and accept my thanks for their help.
Those who have been most influential include: my friend and advisor during my graduate work at Columbia, Abraham Rosman, who always encouraged my interests; Richard Christie, for whom I first wrote about charisma; Richard Castillo, who advised me on altered states of con- sciousness; Patrice Birenberg and Lewis Wurgaft, who helped me think about some of the mate- rial on psychology. Peter Dougherty, my original editor at Blackwells, encouraged me to write this manuscript, and provided me with good advice throughout.
My research assistants at Har- vard, Laurie Hart-McGrath and Krzysztof Kowalski were of immeasurable help, especially in my research on cults, Blythe Horman was a superb fact-checker and bibliographer, while in the ear- lier stages of the book John Borneman and Nikhil Singh did considerable work on collecting Nazi material. I am grateful to them all not only for their efforts, but for their ideas; and to the Clark and Milton funds for their support of my research.
I am very grateful as well to John A. Hall, who generously read an earlier draft and gave me valuable and exhaustive critique, which was extremely useful in cutting and reworking the material. I would like to give special thanks to my colleagues and the students of my two departments at Harvard, Anthropology and Social Studies, where I have met with the sort of encouragement and intellectual stimulation that makes academic life worthwhile.
Finally, I want to thank my wife Cherry Lindholm, who argued with me, encouraged me, pressed me to write more clearly and logically, helped to find a way to shape and trim my ungainly original manuscript, and worked with me to edit the final page proofs.
Without her this book would never have been finished. This book is dedicated to my father, Wilbur T. Lindholm, with love and respect. The apparently senseless killings of ten people were explained by the media as the result of the strange hypnotic power exercised by Manson, who had convinced the disciples that he was Christ incarnate.
Manson, in response, argued that he was nothing more than a mirror, reflecting society's own dark fantasies. Nearly ten years later, the residents of Jonestown, a commune isolated in the jungles of Guyana, killed a visiting member of the United States House of Representatives and some of his entourage.
Then, at the request of their leader, Jim Jones, nearly all of the hundreds of men, women and children of the Temple drank cyanide-laced kool-aid and died in the greatest mass suicide of modern history. At first it was assumed that the suicides were forced, but evidence indicated instead that these people willingly killed themselves and their children in order to ac- company their beloved leader, whom they worshipped as a god on earth.
Behind these frightening outbursts lurks the specter of Adolf Hitler who inspired his sup- porters to similar violent acts, and who also proclaimed himself a living god.
But where Manson touched only a few dozen followers, and Jones less than a thousand, Hitler inflamed an entire nation with his paranoid vision, precipitating the greatest war and the most horrible atrocities of the century. In these terrible events, the concepts of cult, charisma, and diabolical evil seem inextrica- bly intertwined. Our fear of such Hitler-like movements has been reawakened by the rise of re- ligious fanaticism as a mode of government on the international scene, while domestic incidents of mob violence and hatred, as well surges of apparently irrational cultic fervor, undermine our faith in the power of reason.
Even within the mainstream of Western society, passionate evan- gelical figures exhorting their congregations from television screens stir apprehensions about the rationality of the public, and about the possibility of resurgent cultism.
Such movements make it hard to believe that human beings—at least human beings in groups gripped by enthusiasm—are reasonable creatures. Immersed in a crowd that seems to have a dynamic of its own, the followers are completely devoted to their leader and are prepared to do anything he commands—even kill others, or themselves.
How is it possible to understand these extraordinary occurrences? This question has been one that has fascinated me for a very long time, partly because of the importance of charismatic relations in recent history, partly because of the intellectual challenge such movements offer to social theory.
But the problem of understanding charisma and the mentality of the group also has personal relevance because I know something of it from my own experiences, experiences which I share, at least to a degree, with many of my generation.
My first awareness of the raw impersonal power of a group was during student riots in the late sixties. I was momentarily lost in the excitement of a violent crowd, and found myself facing armed policemen, who became in turn an equally angry mob. The riot that ensued was frightening, but also exhilarating, as the participants lost their inhibitions against violence along with their "instinct" of self-preservation in the confrontation. During this same era, I also wit- nessed the transformation of apparently ordinary, reasonable people into acolytes who wore ludi- crous uniforms, practiced odd rituals and proclaimed their exotic leaders to be avatars of God on earth.
These devotees told me with their faces shining that they had discovered meaning and great happiness in their attachment to these living deities. Their conversion made me realize that people were not only vulnerable to momentary immersion in a riot, but also to radical involve- ment in new and completely involving life courses.
Reality was far more malleable than I had imagined, and my own perceptions of what was reasonable and rational had to be rethought. A third factor derived from my travels through South Asia after I graduated from college. My idea was that in a different society, surviving without the baggage of my own identity, I could live more intensely and escape from the alienation I felt from American culture.
This revelation led me to study anthropology in order to learn how to put my experiences of other worlds and cultural standards into social and historical perspective. And, to a degree, this effort was successful. However, when I did my fieldwork in northern Pakistan, I found that the tribal people I worked among, although almost fanatically egalitarian, had periodic charis- matic revivals, where nearly the whole population would rise and follow an ecstatic religious practitioner.
This made me wonder about the paradoxical connection between egalitarianism and charismatic involvement, and more generally about the role of passion in arousing collective ac- tion within a specific cultural context. As a result of these personal experiences I became interested in the study of charisma as the source for emotionally grounded action. The collective energies and selfless communal fer- vor I had felt in the riots of the sixties seemed to me to be best understood in terms of the dy- namics of a charismatic group, and charismatic leadership certainly had impelled a few of my friends to become immersed in cults.
I also believed that it is not through rational argument, but primarily through forms of charismatic commitment, that people achieve the levels of self- sacrifice necessary for revolution and social transformation. But what meaning did any of this have? Was the word "charisma" just a way to catego- rize and thereby pretend to capture an emotional experience that is really completely inexplica- ble? A number of commentators have argued that this is indeed the case—that charisma is actu- ally a meaningless term, completely useless for analysis.
Unfortunately, they put nothing in its place, and we are left with the naked events, and bereft even of a word to describe them. The question then is whether we can discover the outline of a theoretical framework within the dis- course about charisma that can help us make sense of what appears senseless. We can begin this task by asking just what is entailed in the popular definition of charisma.
Virtually unknown a generation ago, the word "charisma" is now a part of the vocabulary of the general public, and obviously fills a felt need to conceptualize and categorize exactly the sorts of cultic commitments and extraordinary crowd phenomenon I mentioned above.
The social theorist Bertrand de Jouvenel echoes mass opinion when he explains that informal relationships in any group are a product of one individual's "naked capacity of mustering assent," a capacity that has nothing to do with po- sition, or power, or advantage, but emanates solely from an inherent personal magnetism When a such a person enters a room, heads turn, and those who are without this magical attribute press to be close to the one who has it; they want to be liked by her, to have her atten- tion, to touch her.
The hearts of the onlookers race when the attractive other comes near. This capacity is thus a quality admired and envied; and imagined, perhaps accurately, to lead to suc- cess in love and work. In the West, we define and "explain" this felt magnetic attractiveness of others by referring to it as "charisma".
Even in the most intimate personal relationships the concept of charisma is used, since the powerful attraction of the beloved in the first flush of romantic love is also portrayed in Western popular culture as "charismatic. Be- cause of these imputed qualities, the lover wants to obey the beloved, just as the follower wants to obey the leader.
The parallel between love and charisma is deep, and I will return to it in the conclusion. But for the moment, I simply want to argue that in Western culture the idea of charis- matic attraction is a way of talking about certain emotionally charged aspects of social interac- tion, both at the level of mass movements, and in small-scale, everyday social life.
At each level, from the personal to the public, there remains the concept of a compulsive, inexplicable emo- tional tie linking a group of followers together in adulation of their leader, or tying lover to the beloved, which is commonly symbolized in the imagery of charisma.
Instead, my effort will be to understand what involvement in a charis- matic movement means emotionally and psychologically for leaders and followers. There are limits, however. Even though I am an anthropologist, in this book I stay pri- marily within a Western context, though I do use material from very simple non-Western socie- ties as a base-line for comparison. Cross-cultural research into more complex social formations would indubitably be useful for developing a more complete theory of charisma, but I felt that what was needed first was a model built from the material that is the most familiar to us, and is most readily available.
Secondly, the study is unfortunately quite male-centered. This is a consequence of the ethnographic accounts, which are almost always about male leaders, and because of a male bias in the theoretical and popular models of charisma. The study of charismatic women is a task I have not been able to undertake, though I hope my work will provide a base for later research. Let me begin then by assuming that popular discourse about the subjective experience of charisma reflects a reality that must be taken seriously.
Obviously crucial to this popular im- agery of charisma is the presence of a compelling charismatic individual whose innate qualities attract others. This magnetic quality that is the essence of charisma is one that a few people are thought to "have" as a part of their basic character; charisma is not learned—it exists, just as height or eye color exist. But unlike physical characteristics, charisma appears only in interaction with the vast majority of others who lack it. In other words, even though charisma is thought of as something intrinsic to the individual, a person cannot reveal this quality in isolation.
It is only evident in interaction with those who are effected by it. Charisma is, above all, a relationship, a mutual mingling of the inner selves and leader and follower.
Therefore, it follows that if the charismatic is able to compel, the follower has a matching capacity for being compelled, and we need to con- sider what makes up the personality configuration of the follower, and well as that of the leader, if we are to understand charisma.
There is yet another aspect aside from the mutual interaction of leader and follower. Understanding charisma thus implies studying not only the character of the charismatic and the attributes that make any particular individual susceptible to the charismatic appeal, but an analysis as well of the dynamic of the charismatic group itself in which the leader and fol- lower interact.
This dynamic, we can note from the outset, is felt to be one that is extremely powerful and strikingly ambivalent, greatly desired and greatly feared, and is morally conceived both as the peak of altruistic love and as the abyss of violent fanaticism.
Finally, we can also say that charisma has an implicit structural form as a process that takes place over time and under certain conditions, as participants become more or less commit- ted, fall in and out of love. And, since it is evident as well that charismatic commitment varies not only for a particular follower and leader, but is more prevalent in some historical periods than others, and appears more among some social groups than others, we also need to contextu- alize any study of it, showing the connection between circumstances and the prospects of a char- ismatic relation.
Obviously, the notion of charisma, though amorphous, does have a content that offers the parameters for further analysis. And it is from this basic concept that I start the task of making sense of the subjective experience of charisma by exploring theoretical paradigms, some of which attempt to understand the appeal of the leader; others focus on the dynamic of the group; and others again which try to develop a synthetic and contextual model of charismatic excite- ment.
And, as we shall see, like the popular conceptualizations, all of these theories have a moral content, seeing in charisma either salvation, or damnation. My purpose in this survey in not to write an essay in the history of ideas, but something more pragmatic; that is, the extraction of a model of the emotions that can provide us both with a rudimentary paradigm for hierarchizing basic human needs, and allow us to conceptualize the complex historical, social and psychological aspects of the extraordinary experience of selfless- ness and transcendence that we mean when we say "charisma.
As my ethnographic illustrations I have chosen some of the most excessive instances of charisma in the modern era and contrasted them with each other, and with the simplest forms of charismatic revelation in small scale societies. The movements which coalesced around Charles Manson, Jim Jones and Adolf Hitler will be placed against the examples of charisma offered by shamanism and the group trance of the!
Charismatic Leadership: The Good, Bad, and Best Practices
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The Laws of Charisma
Charismatic leaders are individuals who use their personality and communication style to gain the admiration of followers. Typically, they can communicate effectively, possess emotional sensitivity, put a considerable emphasis on social ties, and can maintain emotional control in numerous situations that may cause stress or troubling emotions. It is not surprising that many political leaders and activist have been characterized as charismatic. More so than any other leadership style, charismatic leadership depends on the personality of the person who is fulfilling the leadership role. Charismatic leadership theory is similar to transformational leadership in that it addresses the qualities of inspiring followers to take action and an enjoyment in shaking up the status quo.
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