Fidel Castro: On evauating a leader’s charisma

November 28, 2016
Fidel Castro
The rules about not speaking ill of the dead are increasingly suspended. Most posthumous remarks about Fidel Castro this week tell us more about the speaker than the Cuban leader. The venom of much of the recent Presidential election remains
A colleague of many years  once told me how Fidel assembled his closest followers into a room shortly after he seized power, and then dished out posts as best he could. I remember it was someone with a passing understanding of finance who had to take control over the central bank.
Top leader
Castro has fascinated me as being one of two cuban leaders whose names appear at the top of lists when charisma is being discussed.  The other is, of course Che  Guevara.
 I wrote a light-hearted piece about The Castro Charismatic Scale,  at the time of the 2015 Labour leadership election. The idea for students of leadership was to show how dubious it is to believe in such league tables.
Jeremy Corbyn
Based on impact on his or her followers, Jeremy Corbyn came somewhere towards the middle of the list, ahead of the other candidates.
Acknowledgement
To Eagle-eyed Susan, the first to spot my bungled spelling of Mr Corbyn (now corrected).

Sleepless in September. The debate that kept giving

September 28, 2016

 

An Insomniac watches the Clinton/Trump debate but fails to gain respite

In the early hours of Tuesday September 27 2016, in down-town Woodford, England, your editor tried to overcome insomnia by watching the Clinton/Trump shoot-out.

It didn’t work. Confused, and more awake than ever, I stumbled to bed at around four am in our time zone (we have built a time wall around our British borders. A beautiful magnifisplendous wall).

The Pinocchio count

Eighty million people watched the debate in America.  Maybe they were looking for enlightenment.  Or entertainment. For me there was more of the latter.  It was cage fighting, with referees monitoring the truth count. One referee marked it as Donald 34 Pinocchios, Hillary 4.

I know the significance attributed to the event by those who were once regarded as experts.  But who knows in this so-called post-truth, experts are dumb, trust me I’m not an expert, world? So I’m just confused.

The Cage Fight

If I hadn’t been told, I would have had trouble figuring out what was happening. A rather gentle and serious referee tried to get a good clean fight, no gouging, hair grappling, no personal abuse. To little avail. The one in red, the neater more clinical fighter sliced and diced her opponent.  The larger fighter was more aggressive, but seem to leave his opponent unscathed as she smiled in a slightly scary way at his flailing efforts.

Some web-based referees marked the fight a technical KO for the fighter in the red corner.  Others had it for the one with the unique grasp of the English language and more creative hair. He also had a near knock out with a move in which he cried “I’ll show you what’s in my lunchbox if you show me what’s on your iPad.”

Fascinating, dramatic, but the millions wanted a knock-out. In that they were disappointed. For me, the fighter in red was closer to what I thought a winner looked and sounded like. But as a complete outsider, what do I know?

Post Post-truth

The Guardian, that well-known unbiased source of news, spoke much sense (i.e. agreed with me), the next day [September 27]:

By traditional standards, the first televised US presidential debate on Monday night produced a clear result. Hillary Clinton’s experience, grasp and temperament proved superior qualities to Donald Trump’s forcefulness, rambling and egotism. Fears that Mrs Clinton’s recent bout of pneumonia would cause her to stumble proved unfounded. Instead, Mr Trump’s sniffing caused more comment on the night. But the question, in this most unpredictable of elections and in a new media world, is how far traditional standards matter any more.

The Guardian Editorial [September 27 2017]


The 2016 Olympic Games: An example of the apotheosis of hysteria

August 31, 2016

Immanuel Kant

The coverage of Team GB’s successes in the 2016 Olympics makes a fascinating case example of a cultural shift from the legendary British stiff upper lip to an embrace of emotional reactions to change. It may also help understand the persistence of charismatic leaders and their unconditional acceptance by cult-like followers

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Pogba’s fantasy signing ends

August 11, 2016

Paul Pogba.jpg

One of the most cited stories of the football pre-season is about Paul Pogba’s move from Juventus to Manchester United.  Journalists have been able to fan interest. Or maybe fan interest has been able to encourage journalists

For several months, for football fans, the signing (or non-signing) of Pogba has been the story (or non-story) of the day.

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Muhammad Ali: the charismatics’ charismatic

June 7, 2016

 

 

At times, there is little to add to what has already been said and written about Muhammad Ali. This is one such time. In the twenty-four hours after his death, the story dominated the headlines around the world.

I would like to add one personal observation

I should have written more

Leaders We Deserve has posted examples of many charismatic leaders.  I should have written more about Ali. If he had no talent beyond his sheer physical appearance he would have been discovered (and possibly been exploited) into super-celebrity status.

Against exploitation

His life, in complete contrast to one that could have been a passive acceptance of fate, was an articulate gesture against exploitation. Against treatment of black people in America. Indirectly against exploitation of all those American soldiers fighting in Vietnam.  Against what he called his “slave name” CassiusClay.

And within these broader beliefs, he fought against his own exploitation, and found his personal resolution in adapting the Muslim faith.

He put to use his great talents. A dazzling speed of thought and movement which propelled him to the world championship in boxing, and an astonishing display of verbal dexterity and self-promotional skills in his very public appearances.

His career was illuminated and at times seriously disrupted as he was seen as an uppity and dangerous enemy to the American establishment.

Towards a post-charismatic world?

There is little dispute about the uniqueness of his talents. Historians will have to reach conclusions about his impact on the twentieth century and beyond.

To say there will never be another Muhammad Ali, is another way of saying that we are moving into a post-Charismatic World, and trying to figure out the implications of that process.


The Queen, The Pope, and the Fidel Castro Conundrum

April 26, 2016

QEII

The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations help explain the nature of charisma

The concept of charisma continues to fascinate students of leadership.  This morning [21 April, 2016], Reginaphilia raged and reached unparalleled levels across the realm.

Somehow I had missed the truth that should have been staring me in the face.  I have been compiling lists of charismatic individuals in business, politics, sport, show-business.  but I had completely overlooked the claims of Queen Elizabeth II. Even when she was (charismatically) portrayed by that charismatic actress Helen Mirren, I still didn’t get it.

My moment of truth

I nearly missed the moment when truth was revealed to me this morning.  The BBC had retained its customary tone of all things monarchic, that is to say deep respect, with the occasional few moments airtime for someone to make the republican case, in the interested of ‘balance’

“Over then to Windsor town where the people had been queuing for a glimpse of HRH.”

How long had they been waiting? Four days and nights, I learned. Roughly the time tennis fans queue for a handful of tickets at Wimbledon. Loyalists is too mild a word for those at the front of the queue. These were utterly loyal and compliant subjects.

“What’s it like to see the Queen?” asks the BBC reporter

“When I see her”, said one young-sounding man, “I have goose-pimples.”

“It’s her aura”, a lady of middle England explained. “I can’t move. If she spoke to me, I couldn’t speak a word.”

And then I understood.  In our modern world the old mysteries remain.  The followers sustain the belief in the divine right of the Monarch to rule over us, and afterwards granted to the offspring (male for the moment, but that’s another story). And if I had ignored The Queen, I had likewise ignored the claims of The Pope.

The Charismatic Pope

As someone outside its fold of the Catholic church, I have felt ill-equipped to follow the charismatic nature of Pope Francis. So as well as missing the Queen’s charismatic impact, I also failed to have noticed that another super-charismatic figure had emerged on the global stage.

I will let a supporter speak the case:

A year on from his inauguration, Pope Francis is showing signs of being the most charismatic Pope we’ve seen yet. What impact is he having on the UK’s Catholic charismatic movement?

It’s not the first time Pope Francis has surprised us since his inauguration just over a year ago. He’s opted to live in a simple apartment with almost no personal staff, swapped a limousine for a bus and chosen a papal name that links him to a saint known for his dedication to poverty, reform and a love of the natural world. He’s been photographed kissing a man with a rare skin disorder and embracing another with a severely disfigured face. He’s blessed a rally of 35,000 Harley-Davidson riders, hired an intern with Down’s syndrome for Vatican Radio and regularly tweets his 3.8 million followers with thoughtful, encouraging words (@pontifex)

Pope Francis has been named Time magazine’s 2013 person of the year, featured on the covers of Rolling Stone magazine and The New Yorker and was described by Sir Elton John as ‘a miracle of humility’. After just a year, his influence is undisputedly running broad and deep

But would Pope Francis go a step further – and describe himself as a ‘charismatic’? The article then outlines the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church which Francis has treated with respect while avoiding the battlefield over the place charismatic Catholicism in the church.

Time for revision

It is time for revision. I mean my own revision in finding no place for The Queen or Pope Francis in my tables of charismatic leaders. Trouble is, unlike Time, Rolling Stone, or Fortune, I just can’t decide where to place them, and whether they should displace the long-standing number one Fidel Castro.


How the Queen’s speech helped me start and finish a book

February 12, 2016

windsor-fire

Most writers find starting and finishing a book difficult, although the bit in the middle can be quite difficult as well. I recently had some advice from HRH Queen Elizabeth II

When Mourinho Matters was published in February 2016 I acknowledged the help I received from the Queen. This post explains how the Monarch helped one of her loyal subjects in Woodford, in middle England.

Me and Mourinho

Some years ago, I reached the conclusion that Jose Mourinho was a fascinating example of a charismatic leader. I began collecting information, and posting stories about him in LWD. His multiple triumphs were recorded from the time he burst on to the scene as a young manager winning the European Champions Cup with unfashionable Porto.

A career changing event

Last November [2015] I could see that Jose’s second period at Chelsea manager was drawing to a humiliating close.

Writer’s blocked

I re-opened my files on The Special One, as materials for a book. The title was easy enough, Mourinho Matters, suggested by an earlier title, Tennis Matters. No, I can’t remember where that idea came from either.

The material for the new book came in thick and fast. But I needed a nice way of starting and ending it. Nothing quite worked. I was well and truly blocked. I just had to wait for an idea to arrive.

Then I  heard the 2015 Christmas message from the Queen. Her calm measured delivery concealed a powerful emotional content of hope. Never one to miss content, I added a note on the speech to the Mourinho file.

The Queen’s speech

An ‘aha’ moment came as I recalled another speech made, and the Queen’s reference in it to a time of personal grief, which ended in a great fire at Windsor Castle. In a very elegant way, she mentioned her own very painful annus horribilis. The time of dread.

That was an allusion to the poem written four centuries earlier by the poet John Dryden. He was writing about a great fire that had gutted London in devastating fashion. Dryden did not refer to the annus horribilis, but to the time of recovery, the annus mirabilis. the year of miracles. Maybe he figured that folk had had enough suffering without him adding fuel to the fire of memories, so to speak.

I had found my starting and finishing points. Jose’s professional career in my book starts with a section called his annus mirabilis. And give or take a few appended materials, it draws to an end with one called his annus horribilis, as a helicopter hovers over Chelsea’s training premises, hoping for a sighting of the newly-fired Mourino.

Down but not out

The quotes also helped me to realize that Jose was down but not out. As that other superhero played by Arnie Swartzenenger in The Terminator put it:

‘I’ll be back’.