23 March 2015

How Do You Deal With Charismatic Malcontent?

Capt Matthew W. Tracy (USMC) wrote an essay for the 2005 Hogaboom Leadership Writing Contest called, Co-opting the Charismatic Malcontent. In the essay, he addressed the impediment that the charismatic malcontent (CM) poses to his or her command. I would like to know what you think about the main points of the essay and/or how you’ve seen this play out in your own experiences.

-Charismatic Malcontent (CM): A service member (in this case a Marine) who is disgruntled and dissatisfied with his command, whose power is garnered through charisma, and who exercises his ability to undermine the command. His destructive power ranges from breeding indifference and apathy within his circle of influence to participating in criminal actions.
-Professional Marine (PM): A Marine who would take a legitimate complaint with a program or decision to his superior privately in an effort to seek a resolution or improvement, and ultimate mission accomplishment.

Main Point #1: CM’s have a destructive power in the unit that ranges from breeding indifference and apathy in a fellow Marine to creating a criminal cartel within the organization.

Main Point #2: Overtly challenging the CM will likely do more harm than good. Therefore, more covert methods must be employed to co-opt him or her.

Main Point #3: Leaders can ill afford to allow the kind of fracturing and polarization that a CM can cause.

Main Point #4: Every member of a team or unit is an asset, including the CM, and if a leader has the skills to pull it off, co-opting him or her can be well worth the effort.

Questions for Consideration:
- Have you ever known a charismatic malcontent in your unit? Did the command co-opt him/her, wait for him/her to PCS or transfer, confront him/her directly, or allow him/her to sow seeds of malcontent within the unit and address symptoms of that as they crept up?
- What would you have done differently if you had read this article or understood these concepts at that time?
- Do you know of a different way to accomplish the same result as the one proposed here?

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

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