Only half listening to Fareed Zakaria’s television program “GPS” on CNN this past Sunday, my ears pricked up when his conversation with John Miller, former assistant deputy director of national intelligence commented on the viability of al Qaeda after the death of Bin Laden. Miller noted that Al Qaeda will go on without Bin Laden but that [the] “organization suffered a terrible blow because they lost their charismatic leader. And when you’re operating on a global forum using the tools of globalization, the web and modern communications, charismatic leader matters.” (italics mine)
Then I opened this past Sunday’s New York Times and read Zachary Woolfe’s article: “A Gift From the Musical Gods” that asks: “Some Performers Have Charisma. But What Is It? It’s….It’s….” It’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot and writing about a little for a long time. In a new book that will be released next year Ted Sheckels, Diana Carlin and I ask why some seemingly qualified women have never been tapped for the presidency. One of my subjects, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, is said to suffer from a “charisma gap” in some press articles.
But what is it? Does it just mean you are dull if you don’t have it?
Like Woolfe, I’ve used the term to refer to several of my subjects: Elizabeth Dole, Betty Ford, and though I haven’t written much about Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, I’m quite sure I’ve written somewhere that they are “charismatic.” I even found a book called The Clinton Charisma. He must have it if there is a whole book devoted to it. I remember Maureen Dowd commenting that Caroline Kennedy’s charisma compensates for her poor public speaking. Really? I thought people with charisma are good public speakers. Sociologist Stephen Turner in a 2003 article “Charisma Reconsidered”offers that it refers to “role-models who break new ground” and that it “seems to collapse into personal style.”
The Encarta dictionary says it is “personal magnetism” and a “divine gift.” That’s what I mean when I say someone is charismatic, I think, especially the personal magnetism part.
Although one person’s “magnetism” could be another person’s “bombastic.”
If so than is charisma a matter of opinion?
What is charisma again?