Becoming a Charismatic Leader
When I recall all the managers I’ve ever had, I wouldn’t describe any of them as charismatic. Effective, some of them, but not charismatic.
I think of charisma as some elusive quality that makes you want to be with the person, talk with the person, listen to the person, and learn and take advice from the person. Clearly, you don’t need to be charismatic to be a manager. Still, if leadership is a goal, being charismatic can help you get there. So what would you have to know or do?
According to various sources, charisma is an ability and a skill. That means that although some people are naturally charismatic, you can, through study and practice, learn to be charismatic. To do that, you’d have to learn to exude confidence, exuberance, optimism, and an expressive body language. Furthermore, being charismatic entails being friendly, sincere, and willing to listen to and relate to others. Clearly, communication and interpersonal skills are essential.
Although charisma and charm are often used interchangeably, the two are said to be different. According to one source, a person can be attractive and pleasant to be with but not necessarily charismatic. In other words, charm is an aspect of charisma but charisma also includes having a magnetic presence that can inspire or influence people.
Clearly, charismatic leaders can accomplish some things that may be more difficult for leaders who aren’t charismatic: They can sell the vision in a way that makes people buy into the possibilities. They can inspire people to do their best and thereby achieve results that other leadership styles can’t do as readily. They draw on their personality to help them succeed, rather than relying on any form of external power or authority.
But charisma isn’t necessarily all positive, and if you work for a charismatic leader, be careful. Charismatic leaders are good at weaving a spell that inspires workers. But if used improperly, this can lead employees in a direction that benefits the leader but not the employees or the organization. And there’s a potentially addictive quality to charisma, both in creating an unhealthy dependence of employees on the charismatic leader and in feeding the leader’s own ego. The leader’s style can cause employees to stifle their own beliefs and “follow the leader” even when they suspect that doing so is ill-advised.
Think about charismatic leaders you’ve known, charismatic people in the public eye, or even fictional characters in books and movies. Reflect on what you find appealing about them as you consider whether you want to strive to be a charismatic leader.