Michael Joseph Jackson was an American recording artist, a businessman and also an entertainer who was born in August 29, 1958. Jackson was the seventh child in the family of the Jackson’s. Since the age of eleven, Jackson made an entrance into the professional music scene. Jackson became part of the group, the Jackson 5 and in 1971, he took the initiative of going into a solo career but he still maintained membership in the Jackson 5 group. His leadership in the music profession contributed to him being referred to as the King of Pop. This is because he ventured into immense music production singly and produced several albums that had a great impact not only to the music industry but to the world at large1.
Michael Jackson’s Childhood and his Leadership using Freud Theories
Although there has been a tall tale about Michael Jackson as a successful musician, he is one of those people who never enjoyed their childhood and this in turn affected his adulthood behaviors. Jackson has been noted in various literacy materials as an individual who was stuck in his childhood hence he was not able to adequately depict his leadership skills during adulthood. Although he was a leader in the music industry through the introduction of diverse musical styles including exceptional dancing styles such as the moonwalk and robot, his leadership skills were hindered by his childhood experiences2.
The problematic childhood of Michael Jackson acted as a constraint to the realization of his full leadership skills hence childhood behaviors even in adulthood. According to Whiteley, Jackson was not able to adjust during his childhood because he was exposed to the adult world when he was still young (four years old). In particular, exceptions were imposed on his body and mind in the course of his childhood development e.g. mimicking James Brown versus the desire to be white. This created an inner conflict that manifested in Jackson’s sexual and racial ambiguity as indicated by his perverse personality3.
The Stages of Sexual Development
Freud’s psychosexual theory is divided into five stages of sexual development: the oral, anal, phallic, latent and the genital stages. Each sexual stage is characterized by a definite form of sexual drive. The oral stage has the mouth as the erogenous zone where sexual energy accrues from. Oral sexual drive is achieved through sucking of a mother’s breast. Denial of oral satisfaction through weaning or denial of breast milk by the mother has psychological effects to the child and leads to fixation at the oral stage indicated by behavior such as thumb sucking. Extreme dependence by a two year old child is an indication of lack of satisfaction at the oral stage. In later life, behaviors such as excessive drinking, eating or drinking indicate regression in this stage4.
The next stage of sexual development is the anal stage by the end of the child’s first year and the anus is the erogenous zone. Maturation is attained by ability to control excretions. The manner in which the parent handles toilet training is indicated by personality behaviors such as cleanliness, neatness, thrift, accuracy, and punctuality5. Jackson’s toilet training consequences was indicated by his dressing behaviors. Jackson enjoyed dressing up and he staged up with appearance and disappearance in different neat dressings6.
The phallic stage involves sexual drives in connection with the sexual organs and in this case the penis at the end of the child’s third year. The boy desires his mother and develops Oedipus complex which is a mixture of guilt feelings and aggressive fantasies thus sexually desires the mother and becomes jealous of his father. The boy not only fears the father but also respects him. In order to cope with this stage, the boy uses defense mechanisms i.e. identification and repression. Banishment of these desires is indicated in adulthood through behaviors such as aggression towards the boss or marriage to a woman who resembles his mother7. It is evident that Michael did not cope well through this stage because of his dysfunctional attitudes towards his father in his adult life. According to psychologists, Jackson’s behaviors such as plastic surgery acted as an indication not only against blackness but against masculinity which reminds him of his resemblance to his father8.
The latent period begins at around the age of six when the child begins to go to school and interests in libido are suppressed as the child begins to develop interest in non sexual activities such as hobbies, education and the peer relationships. Social skills, communication skills and self esteem are established during this stage9. Although his communication skills were good, social skills and self confidence were not elaborated. His self esteem and communication skills were evident in his numerous performances and interviews10.
The genital stage is the last stage of psychosexual development according to Freud and successful completion of this stage makes an individual caring, warm and well balanced. Generally, emotional maturity is attained11. Michael Jackson developed successfully through this stage because he depicted care and warmth to his children and to the unfortunate members of the society through his charity work12.
His Relation to His Followers
In relation to the followers of his music career, Jackson can be noted as a role model to young artists. This is because Jackson became a dominant figure in the popular music scene. In addition, he was the first African American entertainer who was able to amass a brawny crossover following on MTV. The other leadership characteristic that the followers of Jackson admire is his creativity. He was able to transform a music video into a promotional tool and a form of art. That is, he was an individual who contributed to the introduction of art into music. His charitable activities in various parts of the world including the fight against AIDS in Africa were the leadership qualities that his followers reverend. He donated millions of dollars and also raised millions of dollars for the purposes of charity. Through various charitable causes, Jackson was able to impact the lives of many people because he formed a foundation, undertook charity singles and supported an estimate of forty charities in various parts of the world. These leadership character traits of Jackson formed the foundation that his followers admired13.
On the other hand, his followers argue about his childlike behaviors do not present him as a true leader. Jackson retains imaginary childhood as depicted in his music for example in the song ‘Am Bad’, Jackson leaps, sings and dances in a way that shows a make believe world; a connection to childhood. This is associated with Freud’s phallic stage whereby Jackson regresses and maintains an imaginary childhood14.
Jackson’s Leadership Skills under Different Situations
The leadership skills of Jackson would have been different if he had been exposed to a different childhood situation. Jackson was forced by circumstances during childhood to throw away his toys and childhood imagination at the age four and get exposed to the adult world in the music industry. In addition, Jackson did not receive adequate support during childhood due to the fact that he experienced negligence or child abuse from his father thus he was not able to experience closeness with his family 15. It would have been easier for Jackson to adapt leadership qualities if he had experienced a normal childhood. He would have been able to experience imaginary play and would not have retained childlike behaviors in his adulthood. He would not have experienced the tension between the psychic energies thus he would have continued to progress without regression into adulthood. Whiteley quotes Michael Jackson saying; “I love it (dressing up) so much. It’s escape. It’s fun. It’s just neat to become another thing, another person. Especially when you really believe and it’s not like acting”. This reveals that had his childhood had been normal, he would not have desired to escape and become another person or another thing. He would have been a more charismatic leader proud of his achievements16.
Argument: Jackson’s Conscious and Unconscious and Id and Ego
According to Freud, all kinds of behavior or personality are determined by the urges of the drives and the moral rules in the psyche or personality. This is such that personality is a product of psychic determinism whereby an individual has minute freedom to choose. The structure of the psyche or personality consists of three parts to include the id and the ego. Id is present at birth and has all the psychological energy that an individual requires in order to adequately function psychologically. The id is produced constantly hence it does not require extraordinary effort for it to be produced. However, the id has to be used through behavior so that it cannot continue building up and consequently cause pain and discomfort. Sigmund Freud argues that when the psychic energy produced due to id is not used, the energy accumulates and various forms of behavioral problems among them neurosis will result. The psychic energy may not be used to external pressures that the individual is exposed to for example restriction of certain behaviors by the society. Therefore, any limitation to aggressive and sexual drives through legislation of moral rules contributes to the development of guilt feelings which is one of the major psychological problems affecting human society17.
Just like the way death, suicide and war drives are contained in the id, sexual drive in the life of Michael Jackson caused various psychological problems in his life. Generally, the id for Michael Jackson contained drives that functioned in a primitive manner based on the pleasure principle. This to mean that Jackson’s id focused on immediate satisfaction of the sexual drives he had and ignored the demands in reality and this prompted him to be involved in psychological cases such as his dancing styles such as clutching while dancing i.e. it indicates the conflict between development and change 18.
The ego, according to Freud, includes the urge for the individual to survive for instance the desire to have water, food and oxygen. The drives of the ego are not bound by stringent moral regulations thus satisfying them does not facilitate for the development of serious feelings of guilt. This means that ego drives can cause very few or no psychological problems for the person. Conversely, moral rules in the society inhibit the satisfaction of aggressive and sexual desires but the ego is in touch with reality and functions on the conscious level because of the pressures from the superego to function in accordance with the rules of the society. This leads to the development of conflict within the ego which is exhibited through defense mechanisms19. Jackson’s ego conflict led to the development of a defense mechanism in a manner that he engaged in activities that helped him to avoid guilt feelings. For instance; he supported charities in various parts of the world in order to avoid the guilt feelings or feelings of inadequacy20.
Freud argued that it only the ego that has conscious function. It is only a small part of emotional or psychological functioning that is dependent on the conscious mind. The conscious mind is everything that we are aware of hence include the things that we think and talk about with rationality. This is mostly associated with the human memory21. For instance, in the case of Michael Jackson, his memories of childhood is what he talked about rationally because of the conscious mind. The entire id’s functioning on the other hand takes place unconsciously and most of the human functioning is unconscious. The unconscious, according to Freud, is the mind that reserves the feelings, urges, thoughts, and memories that are not within the conscious awareness22. Oprah Winfrey points out that Jackson’s clutching when dancing was a part of the unconscious mind. Although the behavior depicts childlike personality, Jackson is not aware of it 23.
My Opinion of Michael Jackson as a Leader
Generally, I would have liked to be a follower of Michael Jackson because of his initiatives in his profession. He is a leader in the art industry due to the reason that he acted as a role model to various artists by introducing a number of concepts to the industry that were not present before. He concentrated on his career despite the media frenzies that he encountered as well as diverse controversies. He was able to live up to his dreams. He is a leader I would ape given that despite having a problematic childhood, he was still able to influence the lives of many not only through his pop music but also through his charitable activities.
Michael Jackson was leader with his own successes that an individual would desire to achieve but he would have been a better leader. Jackson’s leadership was confined to his profession as an artist who had much creativity and introduced new styles to the general music industry. It is his willingness and ability to venture into the unrealized world that made him a leader in the music industry. However, in my own opinion, I believe Jackson would have been a better leader if he had a normal childhood. He would have adapted team work skills which would have enabled him to work with other music artists and his career would have been better on the one hand and his leadership would have had a greater impact on the larger society. Generally, his childhood hindered him from realizing his full leadership potentials.
Hendrick, I., Facts and Theories of Psychoanalysis, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 141- 142
Jones, J. D. L., Michael Jackson, the King of Pop: The Big Picture: The Music! The Man! The Legend! The Interviews: an Anthology, (Boston: Amber Books Publishing, 2005), p.4-8
Louw, D. A., Human Development, (Cape Town: Pearson South Africa, n.d), p. 43-47
Whiteley, S., Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.33-35
1 J. D. L. Jones, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop: The Big Picture: The Music! The Man! The Legend! The Interviews: An Anthology, (Boston: Amber Books Publishing, 2005), p.4
2 Ibid, p.5
3 S. Whiteley, Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.33
4 D. A. Louw, Human Development, (Cape Town: Pearson South Africa, n.d), p.45
5 Ibid, p.46
6 S. Whiteley, Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.34
7 D. A. Louw, Human Development, (Cape Town: Pearson South Africa, n.d), p.46
8 S. Whiteley, Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.33
9 Ibid, Human Development, p.47
10 J. D. L. Jones, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop: The Big Picture: The Music! The Man! The Legend! The Interviews: An Anthology, (Boston: Amber Books Publishing, 2005), p.5
11 S. Whiteley, Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.33
12 J. D. L. Jones, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop: The Big Picture: The Music! The Man! The Legend! The Interviews: An Anthology, (Boston: Amber Books Publishing, 2005), p.8
13 Ibid, p.8
14 S. Whiteley, Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.34
15 J. D. L. Jones, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop: The Big Picture: The Music! The Man! The Legend! The Interviews: An Anthology, (Boston: Amber Books Publishing, 2005), p.4
16 S. Whiteley, Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.34
17 D. A. Louw, Human Development, (Cape Town: Pearson South Africa, n.d), p.43
18 S. Whiteley, Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.34
19 D. A. Louw, Human Development, (Cape Town: Pearson South Africa, n.d), p.44
20 J. D. L. Jones, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop: The Big Picture: The Music! The Man! The Legend! The Interviews: An Anthology, (Boston: Amber Books Publishing, 2005), p.8
21 I. Hendrick, Facts and Theories of Psychoanalysis, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 141
22 Ibid, p. 142
23 S. Whiteley, Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p.33