Charisma is one of those things that people want and fear. Charismatic leaders save our souls and encourage us to be greater than we think we can be; or they entice us to drink poisoned Kool-aid or kill millions innocent people. Definitions include the words "magic" and "charm." People who follow charismatic leaders feel powerless to do otherwise. There is something special, something extraordinary, something a little scary.
I am thinking about charisma because I have been affected by it, and I'd like to know why. Should I seek forgiveness for falling under the spell? Can I ward off charismatic influences in the future? What made me susceptible when others were not?
I am an intelligent, honest person. I don't claim to be a great judge of character because I tolerate most and enjoy being around quite of few people. I can take an irrational dislike to someone, but I often get over it. I can be mean and sarcastic, but I try not to be hurtful. (OK, that doesn't make sense.) I sometimes lead by accident, and I follow if I think the leader is reasonable, but mostly I like to stay out of the way and do what I need to do. So who cares, and what does this have to do with charisma?
I describe myself so you know I'm not a wide-eyed idiot, most of the time. But in this case, I met this person who immediately captured my loyalty and admiration. I became her biggest supporter, even when she crossed people I'd known longer and liked better. Friends told me that she did not have my best interest at heart, but I thought we had the same goal, so I didn't see why it mattered. "When it comes down to it, X will take care of X," a good friend said. I know, I know, but it doesn't matter because we all care about the children.
OK, so then she started spending organization money a little loosely (although never illegally) and I joked that she shouldn't be given a credit card. She laughed and said her husband wouldn't let her have one. And she kept buying stuff that was cool but not necessarily what we needed most. And I didn't go to other board members with my concern, because I thought she would be OK, and the board members were a little hard on her at times. I protected her. How could I expect such a brilliant, free-spirited innovator to worry about such mundane things as money?
I was wrong to let her get away with that. I should have gone to the board or the director, but I didn't. That is my fault. And, when a near crisis occurred, she told the board I was incompetent, among other things. I really can't tell you all she said because she never said them to me or in front of me. I'm not sure how I would defend myself, but I never got the chance. And as far as I am concerned, I am to blame. I am an intelligent adult. I cannot say that I was bewitched and my senses addled. I knew better.
So what have I learned? I don't know. I am still a rotten judge of character. I sometimes look at friends and allies and think, maybe she's lying like X did. Who would tell me? In future business endeavors with friends or strangers, I will insist on checks and balances, accountability.
But I will probably continue to be charmed, continue to drink the Kool-aid. I mean, who can fight the magic?
I am just grateful that the vast majority of people I call friends are honest, kind, caring people. Their strength, love, and faith will help me survive any unfortunate encounters in the future. And maybe, next time, I will listen when a True Friend warns me not to touch the Kool-aid.