U04: The Dark Side of Charisma

“Charisma was first used to describe a special gift that certain individuals possess that gives them the capacity to do extraordinary things.” (Northouse, 2016) In our lesson, we learned of leaders such as Ghandi, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy who are defined as effective charismatic leaders based on their positive impression on their followers. (PSU) Charismatic leaders have their faults as well, we all do, we are human.  Our lesson defines this as the dark side of charisma and gives an example of Former President Bill Clinton.  While a charismatic leader, he gave in to the temptation of sex during his life time.  A well-known example of his temptation involved Monica Lewinsky.  While Clinton was wrong morally and ethically, doesn’t mean that these other leaders don’t have a dark side, maybe they just didn’t get caught or it wasn’t publicized like Clinton’s affairs. But that doesn’t make Clinton’s actions right……

“The personality characteristics of a charismatic leader include being dominant, having a strong desire to influence others, being self-confident, and having a strong sense of one’s own moral values.” (Northouse, 2016) Clinton’s had great people skills which helped to classify him as a charismatic leader.  Unfortunately, Clinton used that people skills to entice women, which led to numerous affairs, one in particular that almost resulted in his impeachment.  Not only was this behavior morally wrong because of the fact that he is a married man but it is also ethically wrong.  Here is the President of the United States having a sexual relationship in the Oval office.  According to the APA ethics code, Principle A Beneficence and nonmaleficence relates to this situation with Clinton.  This behavior affected the lives of many, not only Clinton, but his wife, his daughter, Lewinsky and the entire nation as a whole because it became a huge news story that almost impeached him.  When the government should have been concentrating on our Nation’s concerns, there was focus on this relationship.  We can also apply Principle B of the code, which relates to fidelity and responsibility to this situation.  President Clinton should have been establishing relationships in which trust wouldn’t be an issue.  Not only was his trust questioned with his wife and family but also his staff.  Principle E on respect for people’s rights and dignity can also be applied here.  President Clinton didn’t think about his family’s dignity, especially his wife, or the dignity of Lewinsky. Although she was a grown woman and knew what she was doing was wrong.  President Clinton gave in to the temptation and used his charisma to do that.

While charisma and having great people skills are great to have, it important to know when to use those skills especially when it comes to your morals and ethics. A great lesson learned for our former President, hopefully anyway.


Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (Seventh ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc.

The Pennsylvania State University. (2016). Ethics and Leadership [online lecture]. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1791578

American Psychological Association. (2010, June 1). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 amendments. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/ (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)


  1. Jolie Kaye Kilcoyne October 30, 2016 at 11:54 PM #


    I enjoyed your blog. The dark side of charisma is very interesting to me. I also discussed charismatic leaders who turned to “the dark side”. I like that you chose Bill Clinton and his now infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal. While searching for charismatic leaders who got out of hand I came across many different names, but one that I forgot about was JFK. He seems to pop up frequently when discussing charismatic leaders, but is left out of the dark side discussion (for the most part). Did everyone forget about his affair with Marilyn Monroe? I came across a particular article that points out had JFK served in this era, his sexual escapades would have been everywhere and not hidden like they were back then (Buonpastore, 1998), and he could have been in the same boat as Clinton. I had no idea the extent of unethical behavior JFK was involved in. Buonpastore (1998) writes, “President Kennedy engaged in sexual acts with nearly hundreds of women, those he knew and complete strangers, hid a venereal disease and subsequent drug use, removed public documentation of a secret marriage, and was sexually involved with two separate women that could have cost our nation its national security” (p.3, para. 1). The article goes on to say that the media chose to keep everything a secret, yet JFK and his brother Bobby realized they were on the verge of a catastrophic scandal (Buonpastore, 1998). I was really fascinated by this article, and had no idea how ignorant I was when it came to JFK’s affairs. If anyone gets the chance, read it. It’s pretty interesting. Total dark side of charisma content!


    Buonpastore, K. (1998). The Affairs of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton: A Media Revolution That Saved One Presidency and Tarnished Another. Retrieved from http://cspc.nonprofitsoapbox.com/storage/Fellows2011/Buonpastore-_Final_Paper.pdf

  2. Paulina Kulczak October 30, 2016 at 9:27 PM #

    Hi Kimberly,

    I would definitely agree with you that Charisma has its pros and cons! Charismatic leaders have an ability to inspire and motivate the rest of the organization. Due to the high energy charismatic leaders tend to exude, people are often drawn to these leaders, therefore they will listen closely to their directives etc., and these leaders will be much more effective. Pseudo Charisma is defined in our lesson 9 lecture as an individual who seems to be friendly and helpful to his/her followers, however they are actually self serving at their core. This tends to lead to unethical decision making. (PSU, 2016) This is not to say that Bill Clinton was solely self serving, however there must have been a part of him that thought he would not get caught and his scandal would not be as public as it did become. Unfortunately, many people changed their opinions of Bill Clinton following his scandal with Monica Lewinsky, and likely believed that what they originally believed to be charisma, was actually mistaken for pseudo-charisma.


    Penn State University. (2016). Unit 04, Lesson 09: Personality. Retrieved from PSY 533: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1791578/pages/l09-introduction?module_item_id=21393797

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