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Synopsis

The idea that a single person can change the course of nations, peoples, and movements through the force of their own personality is something many may find fascinating and more than a little scary. How does such a thing happen? While much has been written about the lives of charismatic characters, scientific investigation of the phenomena is rare. In his latest book psychologist Len Oakes draws on a range of disciplines including theology, history, sociology and psychoanalysis to explore a personality so different from the general population that it is used by groups to solve problems that reason and tradition have failed to answer. With case studies and reviews of individuals such as Winston Churchill, Sigmund Freud, Adolf Hitler, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Germaine Greer, Girolamo Savonarola, Mao Tse-tung and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Oakes argues that charismatic leadership is a creative, problem-solving strategy that is resorted to in extremis, and that the reason it so often disappoints is may be due to the magnitude of the problems it is called upon to address. However, when it is successful it is spectacularly so, and may give birth to a new civilisation or religion.

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