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Jim Jones Leadership Traits Case Study


The Only God You’ll Ever See: Case Study

This case study revolves around group leadership where charisma of the leader and devotion of the followers lead to self-destruction. Jim Jones is the group leader of a religious group in Guyana. Jones influences his group to accepting that the world outside their temple hates and segregates them.

Due to indoctrination by the leadership style that Jones exhibits, the followers are unwilling to see the grave that their leader has ‘dug for them’. Charisma of Jones to the group is overwhelming. The entire group becomes devoted to his leadership and it is willing to do anything that he asks them. Indeed, Ciulla (2003) explicates that his close associates within the group cover up for his shortfalls and lies that he preaches.

Through his charismatic leadership traits, the members become convinced that the world is against them to the extents that they begin to romanticize death. In one of his sermons, Jones asserts that the world outside the realms of death is ‘shit’. The whole group in Guyana begins to follow his teachings and is proud of his commitment. Eventually, Jones is able to influence his group to commit suicide in the name of God.

He tells them that the only way their unity could remain is through death. He is so influential to the members that everyone commits mass suicide. They do it together in the same mass grave to express their disgust of the world. Ciulla (2003) articulates that the entire group became a victim of emotional leadership typical of trust and charisma.

They see Jones as a ‘superhuman’ who would lead them to the achievement of their aspirations. Although they end up committing suicide, they do it without any form of remorse and are happy that they will become heroes for their actions. Throughout the case, Jones sways the group to believing that a mass suicide was the only way to remain relevant to the world.

Standpoints held by different Critical Thinkers

Marx Weber

  • Weber attributes charisma as an astounding aspect of leadership in which the leader evokes devotion and followership owing to his ability to convince the followers.
  • In nature, Weber says that the aspect of charisma is very rare and only few people possess such traits.
  • Charisma leads to undivided devotion as members are already convinced by the influence of the leader.
  • Finally, Weber’s conception of charisma is that people require it especially in the context of a group in order for them to remain committed to its objectives.

Robert Solomon

  • The major aspects of ethical leadership that Solomon explores concern emotional behavior that a group can exhibit especially when leadership is trustworthy.
  • Solomon says that charisma comes about mainly because of what the leader is saying, the level of persuasiveness he/she portrays, the hopes and expectations of the followers, and enthusiasm.
  • He distinguishes the major elements of charisma that increase trust in an audience and asserts that it is a major aspect of leadership.
  • In essence, Solomon says that the core element of leadership is trust, which can make the group members to increase their commitment and devotion to the group.

Robert Greenleaf

  • Greenleaf explores ethics in leadership and the effects of various leadership styles in cultivating group hegemony and commitment.
  • To him, transformational leadership is the most effective style in enhancing group’s devotion in many situations.
  • He defines transformational leadership as leadership where the leader is able to influence the amount of dedication and commitment to the attainment of a group goal.
  • To this end, he articulates that transformational leadership has the ability of changing people’s perspectives through influence, trust and emotional attachment.

James Burns

  • Burns is passionate about the central element that makes leadership ethical and effective.
  • Burns is categorical that leadership should not bring about positive consequences all the time but rather it should inculcate a common objective in the members.
  • Ethical leadership may lead to group thinking that may impair members’ ability to act in a rational and logical manner.
  • To that end, Burns articulates that an ethical leader will always be in a position to measure the emotional intelligence of the members and avoid instances where they can react or act to situation in an illogical way.

Application of the Thinkers’ Theoretical Frameworks

Jim Jones, being the leader of the group in Guyana has exercised different leadership traits that have led to the unsurpassed devotion and commitment by his members. To Weber, Jones is extremely charismatic and is able to influence his group to follow him despite his shortcomings. To find someone like Jones in different societies is also extraordinary – a fact that Weber has emphasized in his definition of charismatic leaders (Ciulla, 2003).

The leader in this context has led people to believing that the group goals are noble and in line with a common goal. Not that Jones is over-talented in comparison to his associates but he oozes charisma.

Weberian social perspective of group dynamic is that a charismatic leader is able to influence his followers but the trait may be detrimental when people follow a leader blindly. The temple and its congregation heeded to their leader’s advice although it did not serve their personal interests.

Solomon is wary of the trend and articulates that charismatic leaders evoke emotions among their followers. The rationale is that the influence that they wield leads people to trusting them. He says that leaders who are charismatic enjoy such status due to the manner they articulate their issues.

In addition, charismatic leaders are very persuasive to the extents that people who fail to follow them within the group feel out of place and wrong. The group that Jones leads has a lot of hopes and expectations owing to their apparent need to be safe from the party (Ciulla, 2003). They consequently feel that the collapse of the group would imply the fading away of their hopes.

To this end, Ciulla (2003) asserts that they are even willing to lie and cover up some of the wrong deeds that Jones commits. They feel that they are devoted to goal of group, which is driven by Jones.

According to Solomon, it takes an intelligent leader to be able to convince a group to the level of even abandoning their goals. He also points out the dangers of an emotional group whose devotion and commitment solely emanate from trust.

Transformational leadership is apparent in the temple that Jones heads in Guyana. Despite the detrimental effect that the group has faced due to poor followership, Greenleaf points out the important and positive aspects of such leadership traits. He postulates that devotion and commitment to a group is imperative in achievement of a specific goal.

This is notwithstanding the fact that the goal may not be to the best interests of an individual (Ciulla, 2003). Through transformational leadership, Greenleaf says that Jones was able to transform the entire group and inculcate into them the aspect of group thinking.

To him, Jones is an accomplished leader whose traits and style of leadership has made the followers to forget their individual interests. Such leadership traits should be in the context of businesses and organizations where the members of the organization become transformed and share the group goal.

Like Greenleaf, Burns is categorical on the need to have a cohesive group that draws inspiration and motivation from shared objective. However, Burns shifts his central theme in explaining the case study by highlighting that ethical leadership should be able to judge the emotional intelligence of the members. Jones ought to have anticipated the emotional attachment that the group members had developed.

Emotional intelligence provides a leader with a benchmark that he/she can use to avoid detrimental effects of emotional groups (Ciulla, 2003). The temple at Guyana was full of emotional sentiments but had no effective leadership mechanisms that could have deterred the negative effects. As such, Jones is not an accomplished leader since he lets his emotional attributes to define the group goals leading to mass suicide.

Finally, Solomon has been in the best position to explain the case study in which many people committed suicide in the name of group goals. He articulates that trust is the core of any emotional aspect of leadership. Through trust, members can achieve their goals but not necessary get positive results.

Reference

Ciulla, J. (2003). The Ethics of Leadership. New York: Thompson-Wadsworth Publishers.

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IvyPanda. "Jim Jones Leadership Traits." June 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/jim-jones-leadership-traits/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Jim Jones Leadership Traits." June 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/jim-jones-leadership-traits/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Jim Jones Leadership Traits'. 17 June.

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