Jim Jones was an aspiring leader that promised his followers they could live together in serenity in spite of their differences like race or sex. He promised them a perfect life and his goal was to create that life through Jonestown. His outcome, however, was the mass suicide of over 900 people, including children. In this paper, I will explain how Jim Jones qualifies as a charismatic leader, his aspirations, how he promised his followers deliverance of his goal, and the effect of his preaching. Charismatic Leadership
Before I can explain how Jim Jones qualifies as a charismatic leader, I must first discuss what charismatic leadership is. Max Weber defines charismatic leadership as “gifted, inspired, from a leader who pursues a vision which attracts followers to identify with him, to emulate him” (2004). One who arouses people to act on a vision or belief is a charismatic leader. There are three main elements to being a charismatic leader. The first element is crisis situations. According to Amy Toburin, “Charismatic leadership usually emerges in a crisis situation, because in a crisis people are more likely to look toward a person who appears capable of bringing them through” (2004). One prime example of a charismatic leader that emerged from a crisis situation is former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. A professor of psychology, by the name of Friedman, describes personal charisma as “a certain appeal, allure, or presence. When charismatic people enter a room, they draw attention and may enliven the whole gathering” (2004). Body language and non-verbal communication may radiate self-confidence in many of these individuals. This leads us into the second element of charismatic leadership, appearance. Appearance is an important element of charisma to many followers. A well dressed and good-looking candidate will receive more votes than a candidate that appears sloppy or is not pleasing to the eye. Be honest, if you had to choose between a man wearing ripped jeans and a sweat shirt or a man wearing a suit, who would you choose? The last element of charismatic leadership is the speech content. What a person says is very important to almost everyone. Charismatic leaders will say exactly what they mean or what they stand for. Still, others will say exactly what their followers want to hear to gain their trust and support. Many of these leaders will use gripping image-based expressions; this gives the listeners a mental image of the situation at hand. Jim Jones
James Warren Jones was born in Crete, Indiana on May 13, 1931. His mother was Lynetta Putnam and his father was an alleged Ku Klux Klansman named James Thurman Jones. Jones was always into Christian religion and in 1953; he opened an autonomous, non-fundamentalist Christian church in Indianapolis, Indiana. By 1964, he was ordained by the Disciples of Christ. The People’s Temple started out as an inter-racial mission for the ailing, destitute, and unemployed. In the 1950’s, an inter-racial organization was uncommon and as a result many black congregates joined. Jones believed a nuclear Armageddon was coming, so he moved his flock to the San Francisco Bay area in 1965. “There he gained respect from politicians and civic leaders for his social programs. Jones was able to organize his followers to support political candidates in California, and was rewarded by Mayor George Moscone with a seat on the Housing Authority Commission” (Meyer, 2006). Jones had gained a huge following because he spoke of living free and peaceful. His speeches were well articulated and he made people picture the life they could all enjoy. “He was impressive, a mesmerizing speaker. At the time I thought to myself that he either was the Messiah or a paranoid schizophrenic” (Former Joyce Shaw, 2003).
Jones continued to preach his vision and promise his followers that they will live together, peacefully. His personality started to take a turn for...