Unit 04: Too Much of a Good Thing

Unit: 04: Too Much of a Good Thing


This week we dealt with personality traits and charisma. Sure, there was Cesar Chavez and Gandhi who were considered charismatic and behaved morally as House (1976) purported. But when does charisma become too much of a good thing?

Take Napoleon Bonaparte for example: he was intelligent, assertive, and fearless. He realized that he had to show appreciation to those who fought for him for them to remain loyal (McManus, 2013). He did this by rewarding his army with gold and silver from those they had defeated. He also informed inhabitants of countries he was invading that he was hostile towards their leaders, and not the inhabitants personally. Napoleon also entered battles and accomplished tasks that were not required of him, but of lower-level fighters and people highly respected him for that (McManus, 2013). These acts turned many people into his supporters, but at some point, Napoleon lost control of that charisma. His army experienced multiple defeats after attempting to conquer numerous countries. Napoleon lost all hope and began to make mistakes that led to his ultimate defeat (McManus, 2013). Weber (in Northouse 2015) says that charisma gives people certain exceptional powers. Was it possible Napoleon felt he had ‘super powers’ and could not be defeated? This week’s lecture on The Dark Side of Charisma points out that a leader is, after all, human and will make mistakes (Penn State University, 2016). Towards the end, Napoleon made many mistakes and ended up leery of everyone. Maybe Napoleon was pseudo-charismatic, an extrovert who is likely to be narcissistic (Penn State University, 2016)? That seems likely.

An interesting article by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic says we should be able to see past the deceit that is charisma (2015). He points out that there are times when a charismatic leader can be destructive if they lack the necessary vision or good judgment (hello, Anthony Weiner), and the toxicity of the dark side will be extremely high the more influential the leader is (Premuzic, 2015). He does mention that a certain level of narcissism is beneficial, while higher levels are perilous regardless of whether we are talking about sports, business, or politics (Premuzic, 2015). He ultimately recommends we all ignore the hype and monitor what the leader has accomplished. Which completely makes sense. Why do we become infatuated with the charismatic leader? Psychopaths can be charismatic. We all become so enamored with those we see plastered all over the media claiming to be charismatic. Then, when they do something unethical we were too blind to see it coming? Think about Bill Clinton back in the 90’s. Remember that famous speech where he declared he ‘did not have sexual relations with that woman’? And then came ‘I did in fact have relations……’ He violated his duty as a leader to tell the truth (Northouse, 2015). But he had that charismatic personality and to this day he is considered one of the greatest presidents. People are still in awe of Bill!





McManus, M., R., “10 Far-out Charismatic Leaders (and the Trouble They Caused)” 22 January 2013. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://people.howstuffworks.com/10-charismatic-leaders.htm> 27 October 2016

Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership ethics. In Leadership: Theory and practice. Washington, DC: SAGE.

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

Premuzic, T., C., (2015). How We Can See Past the Allure of Charismatic Leaders. https://www.fastcompany.com/3044125/how-we-can-see-past-the-allure-of-charismatic-leaders

One Comment

  1. Toby Mark Quinton October 29, 2016 at 1:12 PM #


    I enjoyed your blog for this unit. I appreciated how you how you used a historical figure like Napoleon to show both the good side and the dark side of charisma. It is interesting to me how the very trait that brings people to these leaders can also turn into a trait like narcissism that becomes their demise. As you mentioned from the article you read by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, charismatic leaders can be destructive if they lack good judgment. Napoleon clearly lost his judgement as he began to lose more battles and that lack of good judgement as you explained led to his failure.

    I have been around charismatic leaders and ones that I felt are narcissists. Both traits I believe lend to the perceptions of someone being “bigger than life”. Unfortunately when the leader starts to believe all of they “hype” and they drift into self absorption they can become narcissist. It is important for our leaders with charisma to remember to be intentional about grounding themselves in their purpose as leaders.

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