David Koresh was the leader of the destructive Branch Davidians cult. On 19 April 1993, he and seventy-nine of his followers, including kids, died after a fiftyone-day siege with the FBI near the town of Waco, Texas.This event, also known as the “Waco Siege” is a reminder of how a dangerous leader can gather followers and convert them into an extreme ideology (Surugue, 2017).
The psychology of cult leaders has fascinated sociologists and psychologists for decades because it is very difficult to analyze. Individuals like David Koresh are unwilling to undergo in-depth psychotherapy, making it extremely difficult to create a psychological profile. To have a better understanding, it is necessary to study the cult’s victims and the cult leader’s writings (Surugue, 2017).
The first characteristic of a cult leader is the rejection of scrutiny. They don’t like to be examined and they believe that they are always right while everything else is wrong. Based on the work of psychologist, cult leaders possess a common personality trait found in narcissistic personality disorder. These individuals see themselves as grandiose and unique human beings and therefore think they deserve special treatment (Surugue, 2017).
Charisma is the combination of dominance, desire to influence, self-confidence, and strong moral values (PSY533, 2017). Most experts coincide that cult leaders are charismatic, authoritarian, and lack empathy. The charisma is used to draw people in, using their interpersonal intelligence to understand the victim’s state of mind using it to control them. Pseudo-charisma is the result of a combination of personality traits that can mimic true charisma. And in fact, there is a sizeable population of leaders with pseudo-charisma. Extraversion is the trait that is most associated with leaders. Because a subset of extroverts are likely to be narcissistic, some people who rise to the top of an organization appear to be friendly and concerned for others, even though they actually are self-serving (PSY533, 2017).
Surugue, L. (2017, January 23). Cult leaders: What makes people like David Koresh so successful at getting people to follow them? Retrieved March 23, 2017, from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/cult-leaders-what-makes-people-like-david-koresh-so-successful-getting-people-follow-them-1555073
PSY 533. (2017). L09 Five-Factor Model of Personality. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834796/pages/I09-five-factor-model-of-personality?module_item_id=21902247