How important is charisma when it comes to leadership?
When we think of leadership or ask people to define what makes a great leader, we often gravitate to the high-profile leaders with big egos and larger-than-life personalities.
In Nov 2011, Forbes published an article titled “Egomaniacs make the best leaders.” In this article they reference a study by four professors that studied 78 CEOs in the pharmaceutical / bio-tech industry and they concluded that “narcissism and hunger for attention lead to innovation and daring decision-making.”
There is certainly a ring of truth to this theory; after reading the Steve Jobs biography I’m convinced that Steve Jobs genius and creativity was driven by his ego and narcissism.
Personally I’m less concerned about ego and a larger-than-life personality being the bench mark definition of great leadership.
I’m a believer that all of us should think and act like leaders; that we all have the potential to be great in some sort of leadership capacity.
I also think that people often don’t think of themselves as leaders because they feel they don’t have the personality or “charisma” to be a leader.
I have seen many aspiring leaders spend a great deal of energy and effort on looking or acting the part of the leader. All of their leadership development centered on developing their charisma.
Instead of studying on how to develop a larger-than- life personality, one should spend their time and energy learning how to be:
Regardless of our charismatic style, all of us can become better leaders if we devoted our life to these Five-“Cs”; instead of developing a personality.
Charisma, for the most part, is more of a God-given talent. It’s great if you have it; but you will get more return on your personal growth investment learning how to be calm, confident, consistent, and courageous in every aspect of your life.
Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” has a great chapter on this topic called “Level-5 Leadership”. In his book he argues that all of the “Great” companies of our time had “Level-5” leaders at the helm. Leader-5 leaders:
- Are ambitious, but ambitious first & foremost for the company, not themselves.
- Display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated.
- Are fanatically driven, with an incurable need to produce results.
- Attribute success to other factors than themselves; often acknowledging good luck, not personal greatness, for their success.
- Look in the mirror and blame themselves when things go poorly.
Charisma can be a great enhancer and motivator to leadership; but it has to be backed up with substance and genuine character for it to be effective and long lasting.
Charisma can also be a dangerous thing; it’s an authority that defies natural logic. Regardless, history is replete with tragic example upon tragic example of people following charismatic leaders without character and substance.
Great leadership is not defined by your charisma.
Great leaders focus on learning how to be modest & willful, humble & fearless.