What Is Charismatic Leadership And How Can I Achieve It?

Leadership became a hot topic in the 1970s, and both the business world and the academic world have been busy discussing it ever since. We are bombarded from all sides with books, articles, training courses, surveys, conferences. If you do a Google search on “Leadership” today you will get over 500 million results worldwide, and over 16 million for the UK alone. Amazon.co.uk offers close on 19,000 books on the topic.

So, what is the definition of Leadership? There are many! John Adair, one of the world’s leading authorities on leadership and leadership development, has this to say: ‘Leadership, like all personal relations, always has something unknown, something mysterious about it’.

Most people will say that each of the successful leaders they have known behaves in a different way, even in similar situations. There is no rule for how a leader should behave, or for what action he/she should take in any give situation. Different leaders will use different aspects of their leadership qualities, and different aspects of their own personalities, in different circumstances.

Winston Churchill is a classic example: he was acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest leaders during wartime; but in peacetime, his leadership style just did not fit the bill.

John Adair, in his definition, hits on one of the key requirements of a successful leader: something in personal relations that is unknown and mysterious. This is charisma.

Skills, training, experience, behavioural traits, cultural background; all these are important in a leader.  But to be truly successful, to arrive at the top level, a leader must be charismatic.

Are you a charismatic leader?

Try asking yourself the following questions:

Do I stand out from the crowd? What makes me unique? Do I inspire and invigorate my team? Do I communicate a vision that can exhilarate my followers? Do I motivate them to share my values?

A manager who can reflect the image of her vision and her values is a charismatic leader that people aspire to work with!

The key to success is finding the perfect balance: a thoroughly professional image and excellent communication skills. The way you act and the way you communicate combine to produce your charismatic professional image as a leader – to your team, to your peers and to everyone you come into contact with.

Live your charisma 24 hours a day.  In today’s competitive business environment it is the first impression that will make or break you. You won’t get a second chance! In the boardroom; giving a speech to your shareholders; leading your team through a crisis situation; your charismatic attitude will position you as a true leader in every aspect of your top-level role.

What is charismatic leadership? And does it make you a better leader?
During my career, I have had the privilege of working with some excellent leaders in a variety of business environments and in many different parts of the world.
My fascination for good leadership led me to spend some time studying the different aspects of it. My findings, together with my on-going development as a coach, have helped me to identify three key qualities that all good leaders have: 

  • they can inspire people with their vision
  • they can communicate this vision with clarity
  • they get the best out of people

Is this charismatic leadership?
Yes, I believe it is!

And I would also claim that there are skills you can develop as a leader, which will help you towards charismatic leadership.
1. Inspiring your team with your vision
Teams need strong leadership from a leader who is able to project a clear and inspiring vision. When the economic climate is challenging it is even more important to keep your team’s motivation on a high. 

Your vision can – must – become a positive, powerful tool for your team.  Communicate it with simplicity and clarity.

And with the exhilarating enthusiasm that only true charismatic leadership can engender.

2.  Communicating your vision 

Your team cannot read your mind or intentions. They listen to the things you say – but remember, they also see the things you do.

We do not only communicate with words. We are always communicating, whether we realise it or not.  Your team is watching everything you do: the way you walk into the room; the way you stand or sit; the way you look at them; the way you don’t look at them. Everything movement carries a ‘message’ that people will pick up and respond to.

Around 90% of the messages in face-to-face communication are carried in ways other than words – via our tone of voice, our facial expression, our posture, etc. Inspire your team with every move you make!

3.  Getting the best out of your team
Your charismatic leadership has fired up your team.  Their motivation is triggered, they are ready to go! Now, how do you get the best out of them?

Know your team! Learn their strengths, their individual areas of competence.  Find out the areas they need to improve, and guide and coach them to gain competence and confidence in these areas.

Communicate clearly what you want to achieve and why. Explain what each individual's role is in the big picture. Ownership of his personal role will boost each team member’s sense of responsibility and fire in him a passion to help you achieve your charismatic vision.

As a leader, focus on honing these three skills – inspiring, communicating and knowing your team.  You will feel your charismatic leadership taking you to ever greater heights.

Diana Vanbrabant is an Executive Coach and trainer based in Paris. As Managing Director of ETACC: 'The European Training and Coaching Company', Diana works with clients based in Europe, America and the UK. Her high quality training courses include topics such as public speaking, motivational speeches and people management skills – as well as cross-cultural business skills and international leadership skills.

Diana has trained more than 1,500 professionals in 15 different countries worldwide and she has coached over 100 senior managers and directors during executive one-on-one coaching sessions.

Leadership training has and always will be a significant part of organizational development. Unfortunately, organizations are not becoming more effective with the onslaught of new leadership models, because many, if not most, fail to consider the model that best fits the personality of the manager. There may be consensus among researchers about what components should go into a leadership program, but very little feedback on dissecting the manager’s personality and the leadership model best suited for that personality. Amisano (n.d.) asserted that an effective leadership program should have these components in the curriculum: · Effective Communication—Learning the essential parts of effective communicating, includes: active listening, paraphrasing, and motivation. · Influencing People—Enlisting positive reinforcement and persuasive techniques that inspire employees toward contributing to the mission of the organization. · Management—Outlining and implementing how each person fits into the structure of the organization. · Build Trust—Being reliable by leading with openness and competence. · Delegate—Sharing tasks and responsibilities that affect the long term benefits of the organization. Although Amisano outlined the essentials for a general leadership development training program, charismatic personalities may require extensive self-study supported by the disciplines within the Humanities. The psychodynamics of historical figures from Napoleon Bonaparte to Bill Clinton suggest that charismatic leaders have a preternatural curiosity about human nature and leadership training for aspiring charismatic leaders should focus on subjects within Liberal Arts (Literature, philosophy, history, social sciences, etc…). Charismatic leaders are shaped and formed by their heroic deeds and need to connect with historical figures that embody their aspirations. Specialized training for aspiring charismatic leaders should entail the following components. ---Charismatic leaders are case study driven. The missionary zeal that charismatic leaders possess necessitates training that point to epic heroes and triumphs in history. Reportedly, Alexander the Great was influenced by the hero in Homer’s “Iliad.” Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte were believed to have been influenced by Alexander the Great. Training for aspiring charismatic leaders should tap into their vivid imaginations and great ambitions. Charismatic leaders do not merely want to excel within an organization; they want to transform the industry. ---Charismatic leaders have advanced oratorical skills. Amisano spoke about the need for effective communication skills that involved active listening, paraphrasing and motivation. However, charismatic leaders use advanced oratorical skills, not only to arouse emotions within audiences, but to transform initiatives through direct action by employees. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. might have listened to his Civil Rights cohorts behind closed doors, but his tool for transformation came from his oratorical skills at the podium. Charismatic leaders are well versed at creating imagery that inspires and encourages audiences to achieve a mission. Leadership training for aspiring charismatic leaders should focus on persuasive speaking. The ability to speak with passion, clarity, and specificity are the powers that charismatic leaders possess that make them iconic. -----Charismatic leaders are known for being visionaries. Actually, charismatic leaders are excellent at dissecting and deciphering inefficiencies within an organization. The visionary traits attributed to charismatic leaders are often a result of compiling facts, critical thinking, and finding solutions to various problems. The late Steve Jobs of Apple is an excellent example of a charismatic leader’s ability to discover inefficiencies within the marketplace. By looking at the marketplace and the emerging needs of consumers, Apple’s invention of I-Tunes transformed the music industry into marketing and selling music online differently. Leadership training for aspiring charismatic leaders should include problem solving exercises that enhance their critical thinking skills. Like any leadership development program, curriculum should be created that invigorates and motivates aspiring charismatic leaders to flourish where they exhibit the greatest strengths. By developing leadership training that addresses the visceral aspects of an individual, more leaders will emerge, generally, and more charismatic leaders, specifically. Edward Brown Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute www.core-edge.com Reference(s): Amisano, C. (n.d.). Components of leadership training.eHow (Money). Retrieved from: www.ehow.com/list_6054344_components-leadership-training.html

Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus assert in “Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge,” that “charisma is the result of effective leadership, not the other way around.” A recent report on the measurability of charisma co-authored by Kenneth Levine, Communications Studies Professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, suggests that traits like: empathy, good listening skills, eye contact, enthusiasm, self-confidence and skillful speaking are measurable by social scientists. After surveying students to assess the means of defining and characterizing charisma, these learnable traits were viewed as the hallmark of charisma. Following this line of thinking to its logical conclusion suggests that any individual demonstrating these traits would be described as charismatic. In this sense, charisma would be the affectation of certain physical traits, not a specific personality trait or worldview. In this context, charismatic traits are not inborn, but learned. Going even farther, one could assert that the world would have more charismatic leaders if only more individuals possessed these physical traits. I believe that traits like eye contact, effective listening skills, enthusiasm, passion and other traits are the manifestations of charisma, not charisma in its pristine form. If everyone learned the skills for becoming more charismatic, there would not be a larger number of charismatic leaders, but a larger number of people demonstrating charismatic traits. The likes of Adolph Hitler, Alexander Hamilton and Martin L. King, Jr. represent perspectives of grand ideas that transcend the physical mannerisms of charismatic personalities. Charismatic traits are the means by which charismatic leaders express ideas. The reason there would not be more charismatic leaders in the world if more people learned these behaviors (greater eye contact, empathy, effective listening, etc…) is because these individuals would not necessarily be motivated by compelling ideas. This is the critical distinction between charismatic personalities and individuals exhibiting charismatic traits. In addition, when charisma is measured based on these physical attributes, the results could be a “false positive.” Yes, one may score high on charismatic mannerisms, but low on the ability to create transformational ideas. Edward Brown Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute

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