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).

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.


The Charismatic League Tables for October 2015

October 6, 2015

Alexis TsiprasThis month, media attention turned to new entrants Nigel Farage, Andrew Castle, Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Tony Pidgley. But the award of charismatic leader of the month went to the re-elected Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras

The results were based on news stories studied in September 2015

Prime Minister Tsipras received the award for the manner of his re-election and his skill at maintaining his credibility over a period in which he went from leader of the opposition to austerity measures to the  leader in charge of enacting them. Technically he was elected leader of his party and then leader of the Government in a coalition.

Stories were also found which resulted in a reappraisal of the positions of politicians David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump, and football manager Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho has jumped to Division One for the manner of his interviews defending his lack of culpability over Chelsea’s bad start to the football season

Arsene Wenger, one of the butts of Jose Mourinho’s jibes, and also of Sir Alex’s recently published remarks, always defends himself logically in public, but with little charisma, and so enters in Division Four.

His former protagonist Sir Alex Ferguson returned from a period outside the headlines with a new best-selling book on business leadership. The vibrant illustrations of his leadership style indicate he exercised powerful influence although he denies being ‘a monster… in my reign’  [in his Reign.! Hmm] One to watch for a revival of his charismatic interviews which may even take him to the Premiership  of the Charismatic League, where he would surely want to be.

Jeremy Corbyn has attracted considerable media attention, and has been described as charismatic. His self-effacing style is unusual and he may well be a member of a rarer category of leader with some charismatic aspects yet perhaps closer to the leader of ‘humble style but with fierce determination’ written about by Jim Collins.

Nigel Farage made a strong charismatic impression on his UKIP conference audience,  and enters the tables in Division One.

Donald Trump has strengthened his position in Division One after several high impact performances where he cheerfully defends the  indefensible.

Andrew Castle attracted much criticism for his tennis commentaries particularly in the Davis Cup match between England and Australia. He seemed to have failed to engage viewers positively. He inspired the Face Book page Shut-Up-Andrew-Castle-you-know-nothing-about-Tennis Sorry Andrew. It’s Division Four for you, when you are keeping Tim Henman company.

Tony Pidgley of The Berkeley group received media attention for a life style that has a decidedly charismatic flavour to it, as he battled with activist shareholders who were seeking a more conventional leadership style of corporate governance. A worthy entry into the league tables.

The tables will be revised monthly until further notice. All proposals will be examined carefully by the editor of LWD before changes are made. The editor’s decision on such changes will be final. This utterly undemocratic process is one designed to avoid entryism, and other attempts to influence the league tables for personal interests.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Charismatic League Tables September 2015

September 2, 2015

Donad TrumpSince the last publication of the charismatic league table, a league structure of charismatic individuals has been instituted.

Relegation  and promotion based in the latest news stories of those individuals nominated for inclusion who are still generating media attention

 

The tables are designed to encourage discussion about our beliefs on charisma, and no scholarly claims are made of their reliability or validity.

The tables will be revised monthly until further notice. A rather old-fashioned spreadsheet is under preparation.

To avoid entryism

All proposals will be examined carefully by the editor of LWD before changes are made. The editor’s decision on such changes will be final. This utterly undemocratic process is one designed to avoid entryism, and any such attempts to influence the league tables in underhanded ways.

Read  on to see the five league tables for September 2015.

Read the rest of this entry »


How Charismatic are the Candidates in the Labour Leadership Contest?

July 26, 2015

Fidel CastroFour candidates are battling to become the next leader of the Labour party.   Here’s a lighthearted charisma league table which is currently headed by Fidel Castro and Boris Johnson Read the rest of this entry »


Che perfume manufacture banned as a counter-revolutionary action

September 28, 2014

Che Guevara (Korda)Che Guarera remains an iconic figure in Cuba. The government has banned disrespectful perfumes named Ernesto Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez.

According to media reports, The Cuban government is to take disciplinary action against a state pharmaceutical company that created the perfumes.

The colognes – Ernesto and Hugo – were unveiled in Havana on Thursday [25th September, 2014] by Labiofam, a state laboratory.

Labiofam said that Ernesto, the cologne named after the Argentine-born revolutionary who helped Fidel Castro take over in Cuba in 1959, would be a woodsy and refreshing citric scent with notes of talcum powder.

In a statement in the official Granma newspaper, the government described the project as “a serious error…The symbols of the Revolution are and will always be sacred,” it read.

The ultimate charismatic

Some years ago, Che was described as the ultimate charismatic in a LWD post. Recently, visits to the post increased.

It seems the perfume is already exerting its disrespectful magic


Was Castro the Leader America Deserved?

February 21, 2008

fidel-newzealblogspot.jpg
Fidel Castro steps down as President of Cuba. He is acknowledged as one of the major revolutionary leaders of the twentieth century. His iconic status presents him as a much-loved transformational figure, or a tyrant in the mould of a Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Another perspective is that Castro’s regime was sustained by a field of situational forces, including the policies of successive American governments

Documentation on Castro’s leadership is extensive, and is now set to increase, following his departure from direct power. Even his sternest critics acknowledge that he has presided over transformational changes in Cuba to social conditions such as literacy and health-care. These achievements are regarded as the products of Castro’s social preoccupations. His critics point to restrictions on individual rights considered among the prized characteristics of democratic regimes. These include the freedom to travel, freedom of information (the internet, a free press) and the freedom to elect political opponents to the regime. For such critics, Cuba is among a diminishing handful of States clinging to an increasingly anachronistic version of Marxism.

The Schubert proposition

The Schubert proposition is that tyrants reproduce a universalistic pattern of repression, which maintains them in power through the brutal and brutalizing methods of the leader.

Along with other commentators, I have found the Schubert Proposition interesting and well-researched historically. It has the additional merit of testability.

Millman’s extension to Schubert’s proposition

The American Psychologist Robert Millman, in Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, distinguishes between those who are born narcissistic and those who acquire it through the trappings of power. According to The Times

Almost every week we have news of a celebrity, lottery winner or City squillionare behaving badly, and some of them may be victims of what a psychiatrist from Cornell University Medical School has coined “acquired situational narcissism” (ASN).

The case of Fidel Castro, as well as Millman’s analysis of acquired situational narcissism, suggests an extension to Schubert’ s theorizing.

Schubert draws attention to the internal forces around the inner circle of a tyrant, and the emergence of a cadre of puppet-like sycophants. Millman looks to the external context.

Back to Lewin

I find myself going back to a hoary theory of social dynamics proposed by the great Kurt Lewin over half a century ago. Force Field Analysis proposes an equilibrium model of social structures.

We can examine Castro’s political survival in such terms. The no-engagement policies of the USA sustain the support provided from Castro’s supporters. For much of the period, the situation was simplified when there was a so-called balance of power. To the West there was America, pushing for change. To the East, the world-power that was the USSR was pushing back to sustain the regime.

The New York Times this week captured the essence of Lewin’s theory.

It was age and illness, not the free voice of the Cuban people, that finally led Fidel Castro to announce Tuesday [Feb 19th 2008] that he is stepping down as Cuba’s president after a mere 49 years of absolute power…Cuba is a closed, repressive society. The American policy of non-engagement and embargo provided Mr. Castro with a built-in excuse for his own failed economic policies and ruthless political repression. It made it easier for him to wall ordinary Cubans off from American friendships, political ideas and affluent lifestyles. It handed him a propaganda tool to discredit courageous Cubans who openly campaigned for greater democracy. Continuing this policy of isolation will only make it easier for whoever succeeds Mr. Castro to continue the same repressive policies.

Leadership reflections

Fidel Castro is more than a footnote in world history. Maybe his case will also contribute to our understanding of charismatic leaders and theories of narcissism.