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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 things.

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 today.

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

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