Advantages and Disadvantages of Charismatic Leadership

Charisma is a tool, like a hammer; and like a hammer, it might be used both for good, for hammering a nail to affix a leg to a table-top, and for bad, for knocking the lights out of a fellow human. Here follow some positives and negatives of charismatic leadership.

Positive: Vicarious Enjoyment

flexible leadership

The charismatic leader satisfies the need of the masses to apotheosize and live vicariously through someone superhuman. The charismatic leader is someone in whom the masses can put their total, unconditional trust, and with whom, unlike the relation of the masses with the uncharismatic leader, they are emotionally entwined.

Negative: Potential Violence

potential violence

The charismatic leader has fervent followers, whose fervors drive them too often, to violent actions. Followers of the charismatic leader are willing to put their life on the line at the drop of their leader’s hat – or, in the case of Donald Trump, at the drop of their leader’s red baseball cap.

The charismatic leader has a great capacity to manipulate. For this reason, charisma can be both inimical and conducive to the advancement of the human race. Kennedy’s charisma got America to the moon; Hitler’s enchanted Germany into the systematic elimination of a people.

Positive/Negative: Egotism

egotism of charismatic leadership

Charisma is invariably accompanied with egotism; for this reason, the charismatic leader may have difficulty putting an end to a failing undertaking, or accepting criticism.

On the other hand, without a charismatic leader, Groupthink might prevail. That is to say, the decision-making outcome might be negatively affected by the group’s desire for harmony. Someone with a dissenting opinion, for example, might keep it quiet; and the decision of the group might not turn out the best, but the least disputable option.

Positive/Negative: Manipulability

manipuablity of charismatic leader

Charisma is seductive. A charismatic leader will be able to rally support and enthuse an audience. The problem is that, behind the dazzle, the charismatic leader might be a nonentity. We are too often hypnotized by the emperor’s clothes, and fail to look behind the bragging and the bluster; behind the charlatanry; behind the style.

In this age of intense exposure, the leader is often the one who most craves attention and can best handle the attention; and not the one who can actually improve the fiscal situation of the people. Having said that, the charismatic leader is at least more likely to improve people’s morale; so that, though they are actually doing badly, they may think that they are doing well.

A charismatic leader is invariably in the teeth of the existing order. According to Max Weber, charisma is, by its very definition, an oppositional energy – oppositional to the existing institution. Change, however, can take one of two forms; can be either constructive or destructive. Charisma is an agent of change. It is important, however, that we retain our critical faculty, lest we should fall under the spell of an agent of destruction, an agent of chaos.

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