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