The cost of charisma

Bust_of_Mahatma_Gandhi,_Saughton_Park,_Edinburgh_(1997)There are very few humans who do not wish to be able to speak and have their words influence the actions of others. And there are very few humans who actually have the gift to do so. Charisma, that characteristic charm that allows the speaker to inspire others into action, comes from the Greek word meaning divine gift or grace. And it is a good thing that this gift is rare, because the influence of charisma has a price. When we see a person as inspirational, we feel their status is higher than ours. This results in a suppression of our own emotion. Even when we adopt the emotion of the charismatic leader, we do so in a manner that blunts our exhibition of emotion.

Everyone needs to be able to suppress show of feelings some of the time.  After all, tantrums are a sign of preschool level of maturity. We often rein in the exhibition of fear or anger that might ruin a relationship. But when emotions are suppressed long term as in the relationship of the follower to the charismatic leader, there are negative effects. People who suppress emotions repeatedly do not feel rapport with others and are less willing to form friendships. So associating with a charismatic leader over a period of time causes most people to become emotionally reserved, essentially isolating the person who inspired them in the first place. The charismatic person may influence others to sell his ideals, but this influence also precludes them from being his friend.

Interestingly a person who is around other people who suppress their emotions, show a rise in blood pressure, indicating an increase in stress levels. People with high authority are able to create a presence. They exude a sense of being larger than life, as if they take up more space than those of us who gather at their feet. And in creating this sense of space they distance themselves from support that they might receive from others.

According to author Olivia Fox Cabane “All forms of charisma come at a cost; what the cost is depends on the charisma style you choose.”
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