Follow the Leader: A book review by Bob Morris

Follow:LeaderFollow the Leader: The One Thing Great Leaders Have that Great Followers Want
Emmanuel Gobillot
Kogan Page (2013)

Charisma can attract but cannot alone sustain great followership.

This book’s subtitle caught my eye: “The one thing great leaders have that great followers want.” As previously indicated in countless reviews, I think the word “thing” is worthless when used all by itself. Because it could refer to anything, it means (literally) nothing. What great followers want is, in fact, a quality, vision, strength, or set of values they find appealing and often inspiring. Less specifically, they are attracted to presence .

Emmanuel Gobillot devotes an entire book to explaining why he thinks the “one great thing” is charisma. and creates a frame of reference within which he anchors that belief for discussion of what continues to be a controversial subject: the importance of charisma. Opinions are divided, sometimes sharply divided, about that. My own opinion is that, like an expensive fragrance, charisma “smells good but don’t drink it.”

Here’s what he suggests in Chapter 3: “Ask anyone to describe the leaders they admire and follow and the word charisma is likely to come up early on in their description. Because it is neither easy to define nor clear whether one is born with it or not, charisma is one of those things development professionals don’t really like. Yet the fact that it comes up so often is no surprise to anyone who understands the workings of emotional logic. Charisma is indeed the best way we have found as followers to describe emotional logic in action. It is what attracts us.” (Page 41). To me, “emotional logic” is an oxymoron if “logic” is defined in Aristotelian terms. I am not among those to whom he refers as “we.”

In fact, I take issue with several of Emmanuel Gobillot’s opinions but think he makes a plausible case for the appeal of charisma, a quality exemplified by Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler, for example, as well as by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. During that same significant period in modern history, other major leaders such as Neville Chamberlain, Jozef Stalin, and Harry Truman had little — if any — charisma and all of them do have counterparts in the more recent business world, leaders who have or lack charisma. Here’s my advice: Caveat emptor.

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