How Cult Leaders Like Charles Manson Exploit a Basic Psychological Need

By Lou Manza, Professor and Department Chair of Psychology, Lebanon Valley College
Charles Manson, who died Nov. 19, famously attracted a coterie of men and women to do his bidding, which included committing a string of murders in the late-1960s.
Manson is undoubtedly a fascinating figure with a complicated life story. But as someone who studies human cognition, I’m more interested in the members of the Manson “family” like Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, and how they become drawn to leaders of cult-like organizations in the first place.

Tax or Fine?

Pay your tax, or pay a fine.  What is the difference?

A fine is a tax for doing wrong.  A tax is a fine for doing well.

Which one do you choose?

The Contingency Leadership

A leadership approach in applying power and influence depends on the leader’s style adapted to fit the situation.  According to contingency leadership theory, no single best leadership style can be identified because the effectiveness of leadership is contingent to the situation.  As stated in Larsson and Vinberg (2010), successful leadership behavior includes “both universal and contingency elements” (p. 329), and the influence of situation is an important variable.

Facing Challenge of Rapid Business Growth: Getting Help from I/O Psychologists

The rapid growth of a business reveals success of leadership. While rapid growth of a corporation brings good news to shareholders, it also places challenges to executive managers.  The expansion of business may push the current operational capacity to its limit in both facilities and the workforce.  In this situation, managers and field workers would experience overwhelming pressures with straitened schedules and increased workloads, that could worsen work conditions, decrease work ethic, and break a favorable corporate culture.  If this problem is not addressed, they will negatively affect product quality and customer service, and eventually hurt the company’s bottom line.

Business growth brings both opportunities and risks. In order to control risks of rapid growth, the management team often implements various strategies to improve operational workflow.  One commonly used strategy is to expand the workforce by adding new jobs.  Adding new positions in key business areas can often facilitate business expansion and alleviate potential risks in production and services. The task of selecting and hiring new workers is always challenging due to multiple dimensions and metrics involved in the process and outcome.

Job Analysis for Qualifications of New Positions

Due to dynamics of today’s business, many rapid-growth companies need to create new positions to handle ever-changing demands in management, marketing, and technology.  These new positions often require greater level of integration and diversification in job functions.  For example, a new position of social media manager may require job functions across multiple departments of marketing, sales, public relations (PR), research and development (R&D), and information technology (IT).  An employee on this position must demonstrate integrated skills and knowledge not only in management, but also in internet marketing, social networking, web technology, and social psychology as well.  This phenomenon will certainly challenge I/O psychologists in job analysis and determination of required qualifications for the new jobs.  The purpose of job analyses is to recognize all tasks required to perform the job and the conditions necessary for the tasks to be executed.  Job analysis also identifies qualifications including knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) needed for performing the tasks under the given conditions.

The Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is the process to “develop and promote values and goals that are shared by both leaders and followers” (Haslam, Reicher, & Platow, 2010, p. 251).  The transformational leadership requires a leader’s ability to inspiring and motivating followers to act on the basis of shared value and vision. In the transformational approach, the leadership success depends on a leader’s ability to encourage followers to rise above low-level transactional considerations and instead pursue a higher-order sense of morality and purpose (Haslam, Reicher, & Platow, 2010, p. 251).  According to Caldwell, Dixon, Floyd, Chaudoin, Post, and Cheokas (2012), the transformational leadership approach gives leaders the mechanism to transform organizational goals into synergistic duties of the individuals.  Caldwell et al. (2012) specified four components of the transformational leadership, which are “idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration” (p. 177).  With each of the four components, workers are inspired to take efforts for their own personal development while also improving the performance of the organization.

The Unique Organizational Culture of Apple

To a significant extend, an organization’s culture determines the success or failure of its business.  Within less than 40 years, Apple has become the biggest company on earth, far ahead of traditional corporations like IBM and Exxon.  As the world’s most valuable company and brand, Apple has a market capitalization above $700 billion and over $160 billion in the bank.  Apple’s financial strength and market dominance can be largely attributed to its internal culture and its unique approach to people, business, and the society.  Apple’s cultural approach has become the gold standard for the technology industry, and its success can by learned by other private and public sectors as well.


Organizational Crises: How to Detect, Intervene, and Prevent

Crises occur in a group or organization in many forms such as natural disasters, fatal accidents, workplace violence, financial turmoil, and so forth.  A crisis is “a low-probability, high-impact event that threatens the viability of the organization and is characterized by ambiguity of cause, effect, and means of resolution, as well as by a belief that decisions must be made swiftly” (Lussier & Achua, 2010, p. 456). An organization’s long-term sustainability and success depend on its effective leadership to managing and overcoming crisis.   It is crucial for the leadership team to be prepared to respond to and deal with crisis in an organization.

Roles and Expectations of Organizational Leadership

Leadership is regarded as a social influence of initiation and guidance for organizational operation and change.  Surugiu and Surugiu (2012) stated that leadership is seen as a “social process of exchange in which the leader gives something to those who follow him” (p. 303). This process has three variables: the leader, the followers and the situation.  Leaders envision the future of the organization to develop and implement business strategies and set the strategic direction of the organization.  The most important responsibilities of the leaders are duties related to the achievement of objectives that interested subordinates, and in the same time, improved the organizations’ development. Thus, an effective leader “correlates subordinate’s objectives to the objectives of the organization” (Surugiu & Surugiu, 2012, p. 305).

Performance Appraisal and Job Assessment

Performance appraisal as a common human resource management tool is “an evaluative process involving the assessment of employee performance in light of predetermined standards” (Smither as cited in Mitchell, 2010, p. 82).  To ensure continuous success of the employee on the new job, a performance appraisal should be conducted to provide the worker and the organization with “the systematic review and evaluation of job performance, as well as the provision of performance feedback” (Levy, 2010, p. 105).