Common traits of a cult leader or how to spot a cult leader (or President) in a crowd.

// June 16th, 2019 // Science

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Cult leader Charles Manson

A while back, Psychology Today published a list of common traits researchers found in successful cult leaders. These are the people that can, beyond rational belief, convince others to drink the Kool-aide. The list is pretty much a roadmap on how they do it. I’ve reproduced the list below in case, you know, you need someone to mow your lawn for free or something.

Note: the thing I find most unnerving about this list is how many traits fit Donald Trump. Almost every point on this list fits his personality.

A successful cult leader:

  • Has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve.
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.
  • Demands blind unquestioned obedience.
  • Cult leader Marshall Applewhite (Do) of Heaven's GateRequires excessive admiration from followers.
  • Has a sense of entitlement.
  • Is exploitative of others by asking for their money.
  • Is arrogant and haughty in his behavior or attitude.
  • Has an exaggerated sense of entitlement that allows him to bend rules and break laws.
  • Takes sexual advantage of members of his sect or cult.
  • Requires sex from adults and sub adults as part of a ritual or rite.
  • Is hypersensitive to how he is seen or perceived by others.
  • Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.
  • Makes members confess their sins or faults publicly subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation.
  • Ignores the needs of others, including: biological, physical, emotional, and financial needs.
  • Is frequently boastful of accomplishments.
  • Needs to be the center of attention and does things to distract others to insure that he or she is being noticed by arriving late, using exotic clothing, overdramatic speech, or by making theatrical entrances.
  • Insists on always having the best of anything (house, car, jewelry, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing.
  • Doesn’t seem to listen well to needs of others, communication is usually one-way in the form of dictates.
  • Has a personally consisting of haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling.
  • Behaves as though people are objects to be used, manipulated or exploited for personal gain.
  • Donald Trump screamingWill lash out not just with anger but with rage when criticized.
  • Calls anyone who criticizes or questions him the “enemy.”
  • Refers to non-members or non-believers as “the enemy.”
  • Acts imperious at times, not wishing to know what others think or desire.
  • Believes himself to be omnipotent.
  • Has “magical” answers or solutions to problems.
  • Is superficially charming.
  • Habitually puts down others as inferior and only he is superior.
  • Has a certain coldness or aloofness about him that makes others worry about who this person really is and or whether they really know him.
  • Is deeply offended when there are perceived signs of boredom, being ignored or of being slighted.
  • Treats others with contempt and arrogance.
  • Is constantly assessing for those who are a threat or those who revere him.
  • Dominates his conversations with the word “I” and is oblivious to how often he references himself.
  • Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly.
  • Acts out with rage when he is embarrassed or fails publicly.
  • Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything he has done wrong
  • Will never apologize for his actions.
  • Believes he possesses the answers and solutions to world problems.
  • Believes himself to be a deity or a chosen representative of a deity.
  • Cult leader Jim JonesIs rigid, unbending, or insensitive.
  • Tries to control what others do, read, view, or think.
  • Isolates members of his sect from contact with family or outside world.
  • Monitors and or restricts contact with family or outsiders.
  • Works the least but demands the most.
  • Has stated that he is “destined for greatness” or that he will be “martyred.”
  • Seems to be highly dependent of tribute and adoration.
  • Will often fish for compliments.
  • Uses enforcers or sycophants to insure compliance from members or believers.
  • Sees self as “unstoppable”.
  • Conceals background or family which would disclose how plain or ordinary he is.
  • Doesn’t think there is anything wrong with himself.
  • Sees himself as perfection or “blessed.”
  • Has taken away the freedom to leave, to travel, to pursue life, and liberty of followers.
  • Has isolated the group physically so as to not be observed.
Sources: Psychology Today
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