U04 Is Charisma Truly Moral?

“Charisma is the combination of dominance, desire to influence, self-confidence, and strong moral values” (PSY 533, 2017). “People who are regarded as successful charismatic leaders because of their positive, lasting impact on their followers” (PSY 533, 2017). These two sentences struck me as somehow off when I first read them. It seems as if they were written by someone who bases ideas off of wishful thinking rather than reality.

I do not believe that charisma is a moral type of personality type. There are numerous examples of highly charismatic leaders throughout history who were anything but moral. Charisma without a doubt involves the “combination of dominance, desire to influence, self-confidence” (PSY 533, 2017) but a strong moral compass is never a requisite trait. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden, the list goes on and on. These are examples of charismatic leaders who did not follow what most would call a moral path. The most forgiving view of their actions can be said that they followed a ‘skewed’ moral set of values very strongly. But to me that view holds no water. Morality follows a set of principles that are independent of cultures, religion, or heritage. For example regardless of where anyone comes from, murder is usually frowned upon.

Yet there can be no doubt that these leaders were charismatic. They drew followers from across the world, held entire nations enthralled, and marshaled their resources to pursue their twisted dreams. They exhibited every aspect of charisma save for this strange fixation on morality. To say that charisma only exists if someone pursues a moral agenda, and that if that agenda is immoral that suddenly that person no long has charisma but rather “Pseudo-charisma” (PSY 533, 2017), which is “a combination of personality traits that can mimic true charisma.” (PSY 533, 2017), all seems like a little much. Charisma has no moral grounding it is simply an ability that one has or does not have. It is like strength, you can use it to pick up logs or to break someone’s neck, the ability is independent of the action.

Charisma is outside morality, and it seems strange that some would think that it is linked. It represents a certain blindness about how the world works and is a very simple and foolish way of thinking.

References

PSY 533. (2017). L09: Charisma. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834796/pages/l09-charisma?module_item_id=21902248

2 Comments

  1. Jane A Black March 25, 2017 at 5:24 PM #

    Hey Douglas,
    Interesting post. “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” (Norton, 2016). For me, having a strong sense of one’s own moral values is different from having strong moral values. A ‘charismatic’ leader is supposed to have and may have a strong sense of their own moral values but some leaders may have morals that are warped and self serving (PSY533, 2017). The charismatic leader feels so strongly in his own moral values, and is confident in his beliefs that he is able to influence and dominate a group of followers into believing the same thing, whether or not it is truly good for the entire group. A pseudocharismatic leader may have the personality characteristics of a charismatic leader but use them in a way that does not benefit the followers. The pseudocharismatic leader is described as narcissistic, power hungry, and manipulative (Norton, 2016). So the historical leaders you describe were pseudocharismatic as they were able to engage followers, influence and dominate a group of people, but only to promote their own self-serving agendas based on their own misguided moral values. A leader who wants to provide a positive lasting impact on their followers are supposed to have high moral values based on what is best for the needs of the group (PSY533, 2017).

    References:

    Norton, P. G. (2016). Leadership theory and practice (7th ed.).

    PSY 533. (2017). L09: Charisma. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834796/pages/l09-charisma?module_item_id=21902248

  2. Veronica Alejandra Machado March 24, 2017 at 2:51 PM #

    Hello Douglas,
    I have to disagree with you, I believe there are charismatic people that are moral. To give some examples I can name Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and many former presidents. As we learned in Lesson 09 according “by House’s definition of charisma, you can see that those who possess charisma are supposed to behave in moral ways”(PSY533, 2017). Sometimes people can use their charisma to have followers do wrong things, but there is also people who have used their charisma to bring peace, and freedom to different communities.

    Veronica Machado

    PSY 533. (2017). L09: Charisma. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834796/pages/l09-charisma?module_item_id=21902248

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