U04: Is Narendra Modi a Charismatic Leader?

The rise of a Narendra Damodardas Modi from a “tea seller” to the prime minister of India has certainly been meteoric. He was recently named the 9th most powerful person in the world, the highest ranked new comer in the list (The Times of India, 2017). He is often cited by the news media as one of the most charismatic, dynamic and energetic leader in the global sphere, currently on the path of repositioning India’s position on the complex map of world politics. Narendra Modi has had reasonable success since the time he took over the office in May, 2014, by bringing in bold and audacious sweeping reforms to take a country out of the dire straits the country found itself in after a string of scams that marred the rule of the previous administration. He has been called a great orator (Doval, 2017), has been very successful in gaining the trust of the “common man”(The Indian Express, 2016) and is causing tectonic movements in the politics of the country.

His opponents, however, have been consistently leveling charges of arrogance and cocksureness against him, often referring to his bravado as ignorance and pseudo-charisma. The fact that the prime minister is outspoken and exhibits extraversion in favor of his policies is often equated to being narcissistic and self-serving. The opposition also correlates the fact that the power is extremely centered in one person to a lack of organization in the governance of the country. His followers (called “Modi Bhakts”) have been accused of taking every word of his as gospel without putting too much thought behind the intent (Catchnews.com, 2017). In the past, before he became the prime minister of the nation, he was arraigned for polarizing a region on the basis of religion and causing a Hindu-Muslim divide, that led to riots. And he has been accused of the same charge many times since.

So does all of this make Narendra Modi a pseudo-charismatic leader?

In words of Dan Ciampa, who wrote on the subject of charismatic leadership for Harvard Business Review, “…true charismatic leadership is more than just a set of techniques to excite followers. Rather, it comes from the leader’s observable behavior, displaying a deep belief in the promise and possibilities of the organization, a sense of optimism for the probability of success, and a willingness to take personal risks and make sacrifices to turn the vision into reality” (Ciampa, 2016). If we were to take the opposition’s accusations into account, then one cannot call Narendra Modi a charismatic leader; instead he qualifies for what is referred to as pseudo-charismatic.

Another Harvard Business Review article by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic discusses the dark side of charisma by referring to its three pitfalls. 1. Charisma dilutes judgement of people through emotional manipulation, a charge that has been leveled against Narendra Modi repeatedly; 2. that it is addictive in that it makes leaders dependent upon the love of the followers, while followers become hooked to the leader’s charisma, a reciprocal dependence, a spectacle that can be experienced at massive rallies that are held by the prime minister to address his followers; and 3. charisma disguises psychopaths, an assertion that will take the argument too far at this point, since nothing about Narendra Modi can be judged as being psychopathic (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2012).

However, much remains to be said in how successful he is since politics have a relatively long determination cycle of success or failure and cannot be tested on the pedestal of an immediate victory or defeat. The course the country takes over the next few years determines whether Narendra modi is a (pseudo-)charismatic leader.



The Times of India. (2017).”Narendra Modi Ranked Among World’s 10 Most Powerful People By Forbes – Times Of India”. The Times of India. N.p., 2017. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Doval, Nikita. (2017). “What Makes Narendra Modi A Good Speaker?”. http://www.livemint.com/. N.p., 2017. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

The Indian Express. (2017). “Common Man Happy With Governmentt’S Decision On Demonetisation: BJP”, The Indian Express. N.p., 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Catchnews.com. (2017). “Reality Check For Bhakts: Narendra Modi Is Not TIME’s Person Of The Year”. CatchNews.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Ciampa, Dan. (2016). “When Charismatic Leadership Goes Too Far”. Harvard Business Review. N.p., 2016.

Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. (2012). “The Dark Side of Charisma”. Harvard Business Review. N.p., 2012.

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