Trump: Charismatic to Rational-Legal

Charismatic leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and Hitler*, have provided constructive and successful movements throughout history (Openstax, 17.1). It seems strange that one might compare Adolf Hitler to Martin Luther King Jr., however they led with fundamentally the same type of authority; though the outcomes of their leadership were vastly different. Charismatic authority does not explicitly infer a good or bad leader. This authority- relying heavily on charm, persuasiveness, and boldness- can also be found in United States President-elect Donald Trump. Trump’s authority is largely charismatic because it is self-made, un-scripted, and unconventional. His prior fame as successful businessman and his 3.6 billion dollar net worth gained him plenty of attention, and highlighted that he would not be ‘bought out’ by a special interest group in order to lead the country in a certain direction (Forbes, 2016). In a sense, Trump wore a badge that screamed ‘rogue,’ and in a country needing change, more than 62 million U.S. citizens deemed him fit for the job (CNN, 2016).

Those 62-plus-million popular and 302 electoral votes acquired him his presidential election to be the United States’ leader from 2016–2020. Max Weber’s Rational-Legal Authority rests in the confines of rules, legitimacy based on election, and the law. President-Elect Trump’s authority is transitioning from a one of attention and charisma to a one of legitimate power. Under charismatic authority, Trump had power over those working for him for Trump Towers, and those supporting him. As the new president, he will now have legal power, central to our rational society. The votes anchored his legitimacy, and now, his new status allows him to rule the United States as a whole.

I believe Donald Trump’s behaviors and beliefs must change as a result of his transition from charismatic authority to rational-legal authority. His bold opinions, politically incorrect words, and controversial sexual harassment scandals have already ignited uproar with violent protests and vandalism (The Washington Post, 2016). A united nation must be led by someone respectful, lest it be divided and crumble. In my opinion, Trump’s egregious and ostentatious words might not have been acceptable, but they gained him attention and he brought to light some very serious economic issues for the country. On one hand, it is possible his behaviors were simply marketing. Now that he holds the presidency and will be leading in a representative democracy with shared power; his behaviors and beliefs might become more accepting and representative of the peaceful, independent nation described in the Constitution. On another hand, he has been a successful businessman and celebrity for so long under charismatic authority. That charismatic authority, and his accompanying beliefs and behaviors, helped him achieve enormous fame and fortune. Since it has worked for him in the past, only time will tell if the Trump the United States has been familiar with will be the same Trump who takes office January 20, 2017.

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*Hitler demonstrated Charismatic Authority before and alongside his Rational-Legal Authority as Chancellor of Germany from 1933–1945