Contrary to popular
belief, insecurity can serve as a backdrop for charismatic personalities
and their accomplishments. It may seem that charisma and insecurity fused
together in the same breath would be an oxymoron, but there are many instances
where charisma is not founded purely on confidence, but to some degree--insecurity.
Take for example, the charisma of John F. Kennedy. While Kennedy's charm
and charisma is legendary, the history that lies behind JFK's charisma is
often overshadowed by the mythology that surrounds him. Suffice to say that
JFK was not initially the "go to" person within the Kennedy Clan.
As a matter of fact, Kennedy was seen as wayward and unfocused. It wasn't
until his brother's death in World War II that John F. Kennedy began taking
a more serious and disciplined approach to life. JFK began developing the
character that immortalized him once he was handed the baton by his father,
Joseph Kennedy, Sr. The same is true with Basketball Great, Michael Jordan,
whose being dismissed from his high school basketball team, has become basketball
history. There are countless examples of charismatic men and women who early
on did not show overt signs of charisma and its accompanied achievement.
In fact, evidence suggests that it was these early experiences with disappointment
that fed their insecurity, which sparked their reinventing themselves. While
you don't have to be insecure to develop a high degree of charisma, the Core
Edge Image & Charisma Institute has uncovered cases where insecurity
developed into confidence sparking a high degree of charisma.
To observe how this is possible, you have to look at the dynamics that shape
the charismatic mind set. According to a USA Today article, Charmed, I'm sure
by Steve Bodow (12/9/02), Jay Conger, a London Business School professor and
USC researcher says that the traits that define the charismatic mind are:
· A restless compulsion to challenge the status quo. The charismatic leader
is most at home, and most effective, in chaos.
· A clear vision within uncharted territory to explore.
· An ability to articulate a vision compellingly to any audience and to
imbue it with a sense of great importance.
· An ability to create a sense that no other person could--or would--take
the same tactic.
· An ability to inspire and permit those around him to do extraordinary
In addition, a high need for achievement often stems from feelings of not belonging
or being seen as an outcast during childhood. Charismatic personalities may
be seen as overly sensitive, internalizing every slight, barb or denigration
heaped upon him, which builds to a boiling point. Their mantra to the world
is "I'll show them." It is often through the pain of these experiences
where charismatic personalities develop an insatiable desire to relentlessly
pursue a goal often with missionary or messianic zeal. The pain of insecurity
is sedated with an internal knowing that he is chasing lofty goals that make
him feel important and significant. In the long run, society benefits from
his efforts, but his efforts are not directed towards society, but towards
these feelings of insecurity. While a great deal of pain may be attached to
achievement, it is these accomplishments that lead to great innovations and
contributions. Reflecting on the employment history of charismatic personalities,
they tend to be "thorns" on the sides of management. Because they
are insatiable in their desire to learn, they often feel above or smarter than
the people they report to. In the end, charismatic personalities may have "spotty" or
sporadic work histories. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury
for the United States, was said to be a malcontent consistently rubbing General
George Washington the wrong way. Surprisingly, General Washington and later
President Washington would always call Hamilton back into service to perform
a deed essential to the development of the American Republic. It is Hamilton
who is credited for creating the American economic system that is in place
Britain's, Winston Churchill shared similar attributes. While he is credited
for being one of the greatest prime ministers England has produced, a young
Winston Churchill almost drove himself to maniacal depths to achieve fame and
glory in the British military. These men's need to prove themselves to gain
recognition stemmed from the personal insecurities that would lead to charismatic
greatness. Abraham Lincoln, another insecure individual who overcame countless
setbacks, allegorically remonstrated:
…Alexander, Caesar, or Napoleon! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks
regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story,
upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others. It denies that it
is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps
of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction;
and if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves
or enslaving freemen.
So, if greatness is sometimes derived from insecurity, why don't we celebrate
it, instead of stigmatizing it as a weakness? Largely, characteristics that
are viewed as weak rarely get celebrated or acclaimed. In fact, rugged individualism
is seen as anti-social and anti-civilization in some circles. Opponents regale
the idea of collective interests over individual pursuits as a means of maintaining
social order and proper behavior. Human nature has shown that left to its own
devices, it devours anything in its wake that does not serve its selfish interest.
Insecure individuals who have made great contributions are seen as winners.
In this instance, the ends justify the means. Burn-outs are rarely given homage
and success is the sweetest revenge.
Finally, there are some environments where insecurity is bred that lead to
the creation of "overachievers" with the same token as "burn-outs".
Where a child is given great responsibility early on sometimes leads to a sense
of independence and accomplishment, which is carried throughout his life. In
the same sense, he may rebel against such an environment never feeling any
love for who is, but what he can accomplish. The typical, "Daddy never
loved me" syndrome.
Obviously, you box yourself into a corner trying to create a template of "one
size fits all," but suffice to say that those individuals who gain confidence
from insecurity and ultimately, charisma, internalize the common experience
shared by many in a different way. This difference has marked the upsurge of
humankind in creative ways that has lead to great individual achievement. In
time, the pain that serves as a catalyst for charismatic personalities, may
be dealt with in ways that relieve stress, but once the individual has been
stretched to create phenomenal results, it is difficult to truly go back to
another way of life.
Edward Brown, Director of Research & Development