6 paths to becoming a leader with charisma

Leadership StylesCharisma!

Jack Kennedy had it. But then so did Charles Manson.

You could argue Ed Sullivan didn’t have a lick of it, yet he hosted a popular TV variety show for a record 23 years.

So what is charisma? Is it necessary to be an effective leader?

If so, how can you get some of it? Or how can you get more of it?

Charisma is always a fascinating topic to explore. Here’s a quick look at what six different leadership experts have to say about it.

Get in the game

The management website Businessballs.com claims “charisma is not an always-on aura that only special people possess. Charisma is a force of human personality which can be understood, measured, and developed.”

That’s very encouraging because it means anybody can get in the game!

Actually, it means everybody can get in the game, and that raises a whole other issue.  For if everybody can become a leader with charisma, there will be very few of us left available to still be  star-struck and “charismatized.”

It can be dangerous

If charisma is what you want, just be careful what you ask for.

Fortune magazine called Charisma “the other Big C.”

Ugh. Talk about a downer. Now there’s a scary thought.

Fortune says charisma is that aura leaders use to persuade people — “subordinates, peers, customers, even the S.O.B. you both work for” — to do things they’d rather not.

People charge up the hill for the manager with charisma. They’ll run through fire and walk barefoot on glass, which could cause attendance problems. So, watch that.

Tell a good story

Nick Tasler of Bloomberg-Businessweek outlined a five-step plan called the charismatic narrative. Sounds a little heady, but it’s really pretty fascinating.

It’s also very practical, in that it has a very clear beginning, middle and ending that is simple to follow.

What’s unique is that it is not the charisma of the leader that wins the day, Tasler argues, but the charisma of the story the leader has to tell! That’s a very different approach.

Consider the great stories of history we all remember. Do you remember who told them?

Tasler is on to something here. Make the work itself charismatic, make the people part of the story, and the stars align a little more nicely.

Higher purpose

In a piece called 5 Steps to Better Leadership Charisma, Inc.com says leadership charisma and personal charisma are very different things.

They both involve similar personal attributes — the ability to project confidence, the capacity to engage others, skill in articulating ideas, vision, and goals — which may explain why some leaders aim for one when they should be developing the other.

Personal charisma is centered on the individual, as is the case with celebrities. Leadership charisma exists when a leader is charismatic in the service of the organization, for a greater good or a higher purpose.

Character matters more

The Lead Change Group has set out to  pooh-pooh the whole idea of leaders using charisma to  gain and keep control.

It cautions that leaders should play down charisma because character is much more important and what really matters in the end.

“Character is what’s truly on the inside – the real you,” says the website, which bills itself as a global community where leaders can share ideas. “If we believe in the power of character-based leadership we won’t substitute charisma.”

So then, what’s so bad about charisma?

“Charisma can become a counterfeit for character,” it says.

Make people matter

Lastly, Vivian Giang of Businessinsider.com outlines 17 Tips On Becoming a Charismatic Leader.

Her very first entry is a time-tested winner that EVERY great leader has put into play at some point or another: Make people feel like they’re the most intelligent, impressive and fascinating person in the room!

Write that down! It’s always a winner. As are many of the other 17 tips Giang offers, any one of which is a great place to begin the transition to becoming a leader with charisma.

Another especially good one: Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others!

In other words, leadership is a lot like sailing across the ocean. There is no path of prior boats to follow. The sea itself has taken care of that.

What you need is a well-plotted path, a good boat and a competent, confident captain.

This is the first in a series of articles on effective leadership styles. To see the other articles, please go to 6 Leadership Styles That Get Results.


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