I have been fascinated with people with charisma.
The power they have to make people follow them with a level of compliance I could not understand.

How did Hitler lead a whole country to its destruction? I watch movies about him and wonder how come people did not challenge him. There was an attempt on his life, which failed, but by and large his generals and subordinates followed him blindly.

Is it the German culture of accepting authority at all costs?

But what about Stalin?

He was followed too without question and when he died many people actually committed suicide. They could not believe they could live normal life without him.

Is it again the Russian culture of subordinating oneself to authority?

In my work as a consultant I met leaders who led organizations in a culture which was not authoritarian and they had the same charismatic power.

So what is it?

What gives those people the power over others?

What is the source of that charisma?

I admit I have no time to do library search and find out what different social scientists say is the source of charisma.

But I had an insight this week I want to share with you.

I am now working with a leader of a company who overpowers even me. I do not yield easily to being overpowered.

In my whole life I can count on one hand the people who in their presence I lose all power and feel spell bound.

What is going on?

Here is my insight.

These people are possessed by an idea, a vision, that overpowers them.

They are not the masters of their actions but “OF” their decisions. They are the slaves of something bigger that overpowers them.

They are a vehicle for delivering what they believe in totally, hundred percent, to the point that they cannot stand anything to block them from carrying out that mission.

Being possessed by the vision, something bigger than themselves, willing to sacrifice their own life for it, makes them very powerful. And that power radiates from them and to those around them who cannot resist the power they are experiencing.

Come to think of it. If I am right, the charismatic leader is not a master. He or she is a slave of an idea, of an ideology, of a vision, that enslaves them and they are a carrier, a vehicle of transmitting that idea.

They cannot resist the idea and those around them cannot resist them.

Hmmmmmm.

What is your experience?

Sincerely,
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes