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The Different Charisma Styles of Pope Francis and President Trump

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Pope Francis among the people at St. Peter%27s Square - 12 May 2013.
Pope Francis among the people at St. Peter%27s Square - 12 May 2013.
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Edgar Jiménez from Porto, Portugal, Author: Edgar Jiménez from Porto, Portugal)
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) September 7, 2019: In my recent OEN review essay "Here's How to Understand Trump and His Supporters" (dated September 4, 2019), I discussed how to understand Trump's charisma with his most ardent supporters using Olivia Fox Cabane's perceptive account of four charisma styles in her 2012 book The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism (Portfolio/ Penguin, pages 98-114). In terms of the four charisma styles that she operationally defines and explains, I categorized Trump's charisma style with his most ardent supporters as what she terms authority charisma (pages 104-107).

Briefly, Cabane says, "Authority charisma is primarily based on a perception of power: the belief that this person has the power to affect our world" (page 104).

In terms of the four charisma styles that Cabane operationally defines and explains, I would categorize Pope Francis' charisma style as what she terms kindness charisma (pages 102-104). Cabane says, "Kindness charisma is primarily based on warmth. It connects with people's hearts, and makes them feel welcomed, cherished, embraced, and, most of all, completely accepted" (page 103).

Now, at the present time, Pope Francis is on a six-day visit to Africa, with scheduled stops in Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius. In the terminology that Cabane uses, his visits are designed to generate emotional contagion just as Trump's political rallies are designed to generate emotional contagion (pages 145-146; but also see 146-164). Ah, but what a difference in charisma style, eh?

Cabane says, "Behavioral scientists define this [emotional contagion] as 'the process by which the emotions expressed by one individual are "caught" by another.' Charismatic people are known to be more 'contagious'; they have a strong ability to transmit emotions to others" (page 145).

Cabane also says, "This ripple effect is due to the mirror neurons in out brain, whose job it is to replicate or mirror in our own mind the emotions we observe in someone else. When we detect someone else's emotions through their behaviors or facial expressions, our mirror neurons reproduce these emotions. . . . Emotional contagion 'triggers arousal in others, in a sort of chain reaction'" (page 145).

Now, aboard the papal plane on the flight from Rome to Maputo, Mozambique, on September 4, 2019, Pope Francis interacted with the 70 or so journalists aboard who are assigned to cover his trip. The French Catholic journalist Nicolas Seneze, a journalist for the French Catholic daily newspaper, La Croix, presented the pope with a copy of his new book, Comment L'Amerique veut changer de Pape (How America Wants to Change the Pope) about American Catholic traditionalists.

Now, I recently used terminology that I borrowed from the American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J. Ong (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University, 1955) in his 1977 book Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture (Cornell University Press, pages 305-341) in my OEN commentary "Pope Francis = 'Open Closure'; But Catholic Traditionalists = Closed-Systems Thought" (dated August 30, 2019):

In any event, Pope Francis thanked the journalist for the book. He said that he had read an article about it in the Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero and had tried to get a copy of it, but it was not yet available. Pope Francis made international news by telling the journalist that he is "'honored that the Americans attack me'" (quoted in Gerard O'Connell's report in the Jesuit-sponsored magazine America (dated September 4, 2019):

Can you imagine President Trump ever saying that he is honored that someone is attacking him? Ah, what a difference in charisma style, eh?

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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