An important component of any group is the leadership role. Whether it is formal or informal, there tends to be an authority figure that not only leads the way for many, but controls them. The generic societal view of a great leader is someone who is charismatic, on the contrary though, J. Dan Rothwell, author of In Mixed Company, provides statistics that show that many of America’s great leaders lack the trait. Alfredo C. Ángel writes in the abstract of his paper, “Charisma is not necessarily related to good or ethical leadership. Peter Drucker held many effective leaders share a common trait: not being charismatic.” This refers to successful task-related groups. In the case of a cult, charisma and the connection between leader and follower come into play. R. David Sumpter of the University of Central Arkansas defines charismatic leaders as “any individuals who are perceived by contemporaries as 1) godlike or at least extraordinary, 2) able to save them from distress (political, economic, psychic, or religious), and 3) able to continue to ‘prove’ their extraordinary powers by aconditions (sic) which relieve distress” (Sumpter 543). Cult leaders are well aware of their skills, which include a high intelligence quotient and luring personality (Sumpter 544), and in turn use them to manipulate the vulnerable. What rises from their leadership is a fandom, rather than a productive task-related group.
An article in TIME Magazine explains, “At the head of most cults is a father figure... Sometimes, reinforcing psychological domination with physical coercion, the leader provides peace of mind for his followers at the cost of their independence.” Cult leaders know how to target individuals, putting them in a place of comfort and usually promising something better in their lives. This relates to their manipulative tendencies, ensuring their sense of power and superiority. The article continues, “For the leader it is a spectacular ego trip; for his followers, a release from anxiety” (“Following the Leader”). The expansion of a cult provides a sense of fulfillment for the leader, as they feel more powerful the larger their following grows. Separating their followers from their loved ones and for the most part the general public, they achieve the “phenomenon of mind control (intense power of influence by a charismatic anti-social and/or narcissistic leader in a closed environment)” (Goldberg 73). These leaders are able to brainwash their followers, alienating them from their formers lives. They enhance the group members’ self-confidence and provide them with