Do all successful leaders have charisma? The answer is yes, and it can be nourished, but let’s be clear about what we mean by charisma. We are not talking about over-the-top, larger-than-life sales-types who ooze charm for better or worse. I know of no follower in any culture who wouldn’t shy away from such a leader. So what do successful charismatic leaders do?
- They articulate a vision. This is inspiring when we like the vision. We follow. Vision stems from the potency of a leader's inner purpose. Powerful leaders do the hard work it takes to discover a purpose that matters. Their vision is positive.
- They connect emotionally. In true charismatic leadership, we find the ability to emotionally connect with others. They communicate in a way that puts others first. People feel charismatic leaders and are attracted to them.
- They listen. They ask what their stakeholders want. And they ask for feedback.
- They meet others where they are. They adjust their social styles to fit the needs of the situation, other people, and different cultures. And yet, I am struck how often I hear executives describe this skill with suspicion. They ask, "How can I be authentic when I am behaving like a chameleon?"
- They have integrity. In other words, they can be a chameleon with integrity. Their selflessness propels them to follow through and make a difference.
- They walk the talk. They do what they say they are going to do. This generates trust. I talk about this in a previous post. Charismatic leaders find solutions and finish what they start.
- They stand out. They project themselves and are aware of how they land on people. They know how to work the room. In some cultures (like Asia) these leaders walk a fine line. Sticking out too much can be overly individualistic. One Japanese executive told me he felt like a fake. He began to find his charismatic voice by disclosing to others what he stood for. Because he believed in the power of a "learning organization," he grew more confident working with his team to build a new culture.
- They are conscious of their behaviors. They practice the art of observing themselves in action and making conscious choices to modify their behavior in the moment.
- They have confidence. They stick their necks out in their engagement with other people, especially on matters close to their heart. This is personally risky and difficult to do. But without confidence in their ability to communicate and execute, they may as well throw in the towel.
- The are selfless. Their agenda is bigger than themselves. They demonstrate humility.
In my experience, charisma can apply to both introverts and extroverts. It is high on everyone's list of essential leadership qualities, regardless of culture. But there is a dark side. We've all witnessed the charlatan. None of these qualities can make up for the absence of the first and last points on this list: a positive and selfless purpose that benefits others.
By taking time to translate charisma into actual behaviors, we can gain more confidence, make a difference, and infuse our work with greater meaning.
For the better part of thirty years, Michael Bekins has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the US in global and regional roles, making almost a dozen cross-border moves. He is Managing Partner for CapitaPartners, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in global mindset and purpose-driven careers. Follow him on twitter (@michaelbekins) #Leadership