chapter  2
17 Pages

The role of charisma, ethics and Machiavellianism in economic and civil life


The aim of this section is to provide some definitions of these three phenomena, to point out what is common among them and to observe their role in the emotional intelligence of individuals. Either charisma, ethics or Machiavellianism are linked to motivations of human behavior toward others. The expression “Machiavellian personality” originates from the work of the Italian statesman Niccoló Machiavelli, The Prince, written in 1532. In this work Machiavelli gave advice to rulers and monarchs on how to strengthen their power through deceit and manipulation. He provided schemes of behavior that lack of ethical norms or moral obligations. In modern psychology and sociology, the term Machiavellian is generally used to refer to unethical and manipulative behavior (Kalat, 1986: 430). According to Adler, a Machiavellian person has very little social interest. As defined by Burks et al. (2003), the “Mach scale” is a social psychological construct to measure the extent to which individuals are predisposed to use guile, deceit and opportunism in their relations with others. A commonly used questionnaire to measure Machiavellianism was developed by Christie and Geis (1970), who also described the Machiavellian personality in detail. According to their definition the most important characteristics are deceit, indifference to morality, tendency to flatter others and a cynical view of human nature. In addition, Cherulnik et al. (1981) state that Machiavellians make a good first impression on others. Considering the definitions above, the Machiavellian personality evolves during an individual’s socialization, while charisma is typically understood as a characteristic that one is born with (or without). Generally speaking, charisma includes qualities like the ability to attract others, charm, trustfulness, optimism and the ability to influence others. Riggio (2010) differentiates between personal charisma and charismatic leadership; however, he adds that charismatic leaders have most if not all of those factors that make up personal charisma. In his theory, charisma consists of emotional and social expressiveness, sensitivity and control. According to Mayer (2008), people with charisma possess a special leadership gift, including the competence to cope with crises and to carry radical ideas, as well as having loyal and enthusiastic followers. Machiavellianism is often considered as a leadership skill as well, and is defined as an individual’s general strategy for dealing with other people and the degree to which they feel they can manipulate others in interpersonal situations (Robinson and Shaver, 1973). Both these definitions involve manipulation and influence over people for purposes of self-interest.