“Have we as a nation properly understood the theory of charisma as originally proposed by Max Weber (1864-1920) in his ‘The theory of social and economic organisations’ or are we merely confused between charm and charisma.”
* * *“The [Congress] party which considers the nation a family heirloom never hesitated to destroy democratic institutions to cling on to power. Jawarhalal Nehru had the constitution amended to circumscribe the inconvenient freedom of speech. His daughter Indira wished to do away with the fundamental rights including the right to life. For the current crop ruling the nation by proxy, the constitution appears to be a mere nuisance. Its more important objective is coronation of its prince in 2014, banking on the premise of charisma.”
* * *The following article, entitled, “It is all about charisma”, appeared in The Hans India of January 17, 2012. (Emphasis added.)
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of America is credited with the aphorism: “A politician looks forward only to the next election; a statesman looks forward to the next generation.” One of the founding fathers of the American nation, he played a major role in its expansion and consolidation beginning with the acquisition of Louisiana.
The wise men who drafted the Indian constitution envisaged the concept of affirmative action to bring certain disadvantaged sections of the society on par with the rest. The provision of reservations in legislative bodies, employment and education was to be a temporary measure even in the case of the most disadvantaged classes such as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The original Article 334 of the constitution limits the provision of reservation of seats for SCs and STs in legislative bodies to sixty years. Additionally, the first part of Article 335 has a curious proviso. It states that the “claims of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts…” Unfortunately, India has been condemned to be ruled by politicians - not statesmen - for whom the next election has always been more important than the next generation. Compelled by the politics of competitive populism they have not only been extending the provision of reservations thus negating the original sunset clause but have been bringing in more and more sections into the ambit of reservations.
As an ideologically bankrupt Congress party falls back on the family ‘charisma’ to return it to power in UP in 2012 and eventually at the centre in 2014, it has come up with another round of reservations as an electoral sop.
The party which considers the nation a family heirloom never hesitated to destroy democratic institutions to cling on to power. Jawarhalal Nehru had the constitution amended to circumscribe the inconvenient freedom of speech. His daughter Indira wished to do away with the fundamental rights including the right to life. For the current crop ruling the nation by proxy, the constitution appears to be a mere nuisance. Its more important objective is coronation of its prince in 2014, banking on the premise of charisma.
Have we as a nation properly understood the theory of charisma or are we merely confused between charm and charisma?
The theory of ‘Charismatic Leadership’ evolved from ideas originally proposed by Max Weber (1864-1920) in his ‘The theory of social and economic organisations’. Weber, known as an economist and historian in his time may be said to be the father modern sociology. He was the first to use the word ‘charisma’ to describe ‘leadership’ that emerges in crisis situations.
In Greek, the word ‘Charisma’ means ‘divinely inspired gift’. Charismatic leadership is neither traditional nor based on formal authority but based on followers’ perception that the leader is gifted with exceptional qualities. A charismatic leader, as conceptualised by Weber is gifted with a radical vision that offers solutions to crisis situations. He attracts followers who believe in his vision. The followers experience success that makes them trust their leader’s vision as attainable. This makes them perceive the leader as extraordinary.
What then are the traits of a charismatic leader? Literature on leadership defines precisely the attributes, traits and behaviours of charismatic leaders. Thus charismatic leaders have a strong need for power, high self-confidence and conviction in their own beliefs and ideals and are able to influence the attitudes and behaviours of their followers. But first a charismatic leader must have a vision that is both ennobling and appealing.
The leader must be able to make his followers visualise the ennobling vision by expressive language and communication. The leader must be able to take exceptional personal risks and make self-sacrifices to attain the vision. The leader must consistently communicate his confidence in and high expectations from his followers. The leader must consistently ensure that both he and his followers observe role-modelling consistent with the vision.
The leader must be able to build identification with the vision and finally he must be able to empower the followers to achieve the vision.
So what is the ennobling vision that a charismatic leader should have had and communicated to the people of a newly liberated nation? Why, it is the vision of a strong and resurgent nation, for the building of which the leader takes personal risks and makes sacrifices. A strong and resurgent nation, the concept of which every citizen identifies with and believes in. In order to be labelled charismatic did any of our leaders since independence believe in and communicate such ennobling vision? Did any of them take personal risks and make sacrifices for realising such ennobling vision? Does every citizen identify with and believe in such ennobling vision?
TAILPIECE: Malcolm Gladwell calls the misconception of ‘charisma’, the “Warren Harding Error” (‘Blink’, 2006. Penguin Books, New Delhi). Warren Harding was elected president because his electors could not distinguish between charisma in its popular misconception and charismatic leadership. The 29th US President (1921–1923) was tall, broad-shouldered and perfectly proportioned, had a bronzed complexion and a resonant masculine voice. Harding came to be described a ‘Roman’ for his good looks. He was affable and had an implacable desire to please. His father once told him that it was good he hadn’t been born a girl because, “You would be in the family way all the time. You can’t say no”. During his presidency, he busied himself with golf, poker and his mistresses while his cronies looted the exchequer ‘in a variety of creative ways’.
Harding had the dubious distinction of being the second of ten ‘Worst Presidents’. Jay Tolson says that he was an ‘ineffectual and indecisive leader’ and his ‘claim to infamy rests on spectacular ineptitude’. (US News & World Report, February 16, 2007. Worst Presidents: Warren Harding, accessible from http://bit.ly/a3bRER).