I recently view a documentary on Jim Jones. In 1978, Jones orchestrated a mass suicide murder. 900 people, including children and Jones died. According to the history website, as the leader and founder of The Peoples Temple Church, a religious group, Jones had over 1000 followers. In 1976 he relocated his California based church to Guyana after news got out that he was physically and mentally abusing his followers. There he convinced them to commit suicide calling it a “revolutionary act”, by drinking cyanide laced juice.
While watching the short film, I thought there may have been a problem with all 900 followers. Why would they choose to follow him? The Jonestown survivor website stories, showed me a diverse group of followers. There were African Americans living happily with White Americans during the early 50’s. His followers seemed to be very happy with the situation they were in. They all looked like normal people with families and jobs. Maybe they thought the situation there was better than it was outside in the real world during that time. Or was it that Jones’ leadership was so effective that they had to follow him?
Even though he had evil intentions, Jim Jones possessed some positive traits. He was an extravert by being outgoing. He used his followers as campaign volunteers to get support from political leaders. He was charismatic, friendly and agreeable and had a racially diverse group of followers. Jones was also very intelligent Northouse (2013). The history website states that in 1976 the mayor of San Francisco appointed him chairman of the Housing Authority.
The dark side of his personality ultimately cost people their lives. He showed narcissism, the history website called him power –hungry often traveling with bodyguards. He was self-centered subjecting his followers to live in harsh condition while he lived in luxury. He also had a fear of failure, punishing his followers if they questioned his authority Northouse (2013).
Jim Jones whole world came crashing down when some of his followers accused him of holding them against their will. Jones’s traits neuroticism, insecurity, anxiousness and hostility, Northouse (2013), drove him to murder. There were no traits that could predict the actions of Jones at Jonestown. He manipulated people into believing in him and believing that suicide was a political move. A few of his followers survived. They knew they would die if they stayed.
Northouse, P. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice.
Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
History.com. (1996-2014). History List. Retrieved January 26, 2014 from
Jonestown. (2013). About Jonestown. Retrieved January 26, 2014 from