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Why Is The Most Charismatic Leadership Also The Most Dangerous One?

Charismatic Leadership Style

Max Weber defined charisma as “[a] certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.”

  • It is unimportant whether charismatic leaders possess the qualities that their followers attribute to them.
  • The definition of charismatic leadership is unconcerned with the political goals of a leader.
  • It is unimportant whether the majority considers a leader charismatic. It only matters what their followers think. 

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Why Is The Most Charismatic Leadership Also The Most Dangerous One?

Why Is The Most Charismatic Leadership Also The Most Dangerous One?

https://blog.mindvalley.com/charismatic-leadership/

blog.mindvalley.com

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Key Ideas

History of charismatic leadership

  • In medieval times, leadership was mostly based on tradition. Most people never met their leaders and leadership was legitimized by the divine right of kings - charisma was not needed.
  • The 19th and the 20th century were full of charismatic leaders. Technological (newspaper, radio, and TV) allowed leaders to transport their charisma over long distances.
  • Our current globalized world and access to social media have led to another rise in charismatic leaders. On Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, many people support leaders solely based on their charisma.

Dangers of charismatic leadership

Most of the dangers of the charismatic movement relate to this power.

  • Charismatic leaders lose support more quickly than other types of leaders.
  • They have to clearly be the best person for the job at hand – always and in any situation. This is why they often engage in a cult of personality and become resistant to criticism.
  • Things that charismatic leaders do to maintain their power are precisely the things that diminish it when their business, country, or other undertaking encounters problems.
  • When charismatic leaders use their position to motivate their followers to do things they would not normally do, the followers often feel betrayed once they suspect that they might not get the expected payoff. 
  • They often eventually take the praise of their followers too seriously and show narcissistic traits. They consider criticism as disobedience and expect total loyalty. 

Charisma and loyalty

Try to use as much charisma as you need, but avoid making charisma your main focus or your only focus. While attracting people through charisma might be your only option, you have to back this charisma up with the quality leadership based on values and principle that allow your followers to believe in the system more than in your charisma.

Only then, can you stand a chance of establishing a functioning and long-term leadership.

To become a more charismatic leader

  • Have a non-material goal and vision that truly motivates you and your team
  • Put your supporters before yourself. Praise them, help them succeed. Put them ahead of your own goals.
  • Communicate your thoughts, hopes, and goals to your followers.

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From positive to negative

5 phases that take place as a leader’s charisma shifts from a positive to a negative quality:

  • The first phase is characterized by the subtle sense on the part of followers that the leader does not want to be questioned.
  • The second stage: sensing the leader's diminished appetite for being questioned or challenged, followers begin to self-censor, asking fewer questions and no longer playing devil's advocate.
  • The third stage: a negative cycle in which compliments and agreement cause leaders to become overconfident. Leaders in this stage create their own sense of reality and become resistant to evidence that they may be incorrect.
  • The fourth stage: Since the leader's views and actions are the only ones that matter, followers reduce their willingness to be proactive. They wait for directions and become passive. Decision making slows down.
  • The fifth stage is characterized by people continuing to follow and ostensibly do only what is necessary but with a deep diminishment in enthusiasm and spirit. 
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They have high levels of energy, unconventional behaviour and seem to be doing heroic deeds. We seem to be hardwired to seek and endorse over-glorified 'Superhero' like leaders.

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Charismatic leaders can also be narcissists in some cases, having self-serving and grandiose intentions, taking advantage of their followers and abusing their power.

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An overly-charismatic leader draws focus from the rest of the organization by demanding all the attention. When the focus shifts to the personal characteristics of the leader, accountability is diminished.

The followers can become overly dependent on the leader for all manner of large and small directions and decisions. The enterprise loses the ability to be resilient in the face of changing realities. 

To avoid organizational dependency

... leaders must ask themselves:

  • Do I spend my time empowering others to make decisions, or does my involvement force people to look to me for answers?
  • How often do I dive into details that belong to others?
  • How do my actions and attention help – or prevent – others from taking greater responsibility and accountability for their actions?

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