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Want to be a better leader? Get charismatic

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Nikki Owen looks at why being charismatic can make a more successful leader and how this impacted on  the recent General Election.

 
 
Having been gripped by the excitement of British Politics for the last six weeks and feeling privileged to play my part in the official political commentary team for Aljazeera News Channel and SunTalk Radio, I wish David Cameron and Nick Clegg every success with their extraordinary coalition. I also remain curious as to the outcome of the contest for the Labour Leadership. Could Gordon Brown’s demise have been accelerated by his lack of charisma, glaringly obvious from the live televised debates? I have heard on the political grapevine that he invested several thousands of pounds being coached in positive body language.

 

What makes a charismatic leader?

Within the context of an organisation, great people want to work for great leaders. The greatest differentiator among the organisations of the future will be the ability to build world-class capability and skills. The war for talent exists at all levels of an organisation.

"Charismatic leaders attract more publicity and more attention from outside groups as well as exerting a strong bond with their organisation’s workforce." 
Charismatic leaders affect both their followers and the organisational culture. They are capable of altering workforce attitudes; beliefs and motivation, making changes that are not easily implemented through conventional leadership approaches alone. It’s little wonder that the leader who possesses charisma also has a tendency to attract followers who are the crème de la crème of talent. In the same way that ‘money attracts money’, charisma produces a strong karmic reaction for both leader and worker.
The Cremer and Knippenberg report, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, 2002, used scenario experiments, cross-sectional surveys and laboratory studies to prove that charismatic leaders had a stronger effect on cooperation than their non-charismatic counterparts.
Most leaders today appreciate the impact that a charismatic presence can have on their effectiveness. Charismatic leaders attract more publicity and more attention from outside groups as well as exerting a strong (albeit invisible) bond with their organisation’s workforce. Numerous studies and experiments have been conducted that prove conclusively that charismatic leaders are more successful.

The right behaviours

Charismatic leaders understand the important effects that they personally have on people and continually strengthen this powerful relationship. They increase the inner rewards for their workforce so that people feel satisfied and valued. Examples of inner rewards include self-esteem, self-expression, stability and sense of belonging, and hope.

"The leader with charisma automatically has a mantle of responsibility: a duty of care towards those who are affected by their leader’s vision and actions."
 They provide an increased sensation of empowerment and self-esteem within the workforce, by expressing high expectations and high confidence in their people, both in individuals and in teams or departments of people. Charismatic leaders increase the value and benefits that people will achieve when the organisation has achieved its goal. This in turn increases the significance of the goal from the individual’s perspective
These behaviours help to create an instinctive, sometimes unconscious impression that the leader is connected to universal ‘transcendental’ powers. This strengthens the relationship between the workforce and leader, while fuelling the charismatic presence of that leader.
Charismatic leaders working in a corporate environment have an immense power to enrich the lives of the people that work for them. This leads to greater job satisfaction and ultimately improves performance and productivity. Sadly, one of the less attractive traits of many charismatic leaders is a monstrous ego that can make them very self-centred. Rather than empower and persuade their people to do what they want they sometimes use the strength of their personality to force and bully others into submission. That’s why the leader with charisma automatically has a mantle of responsibility: a duty of care towards those who are affected by their leader’s vision and actions.

When it goes wrong

 

Unfortunately for Gordon Brown, the external behaviours exhibited by charismatic people can be interpreted as a reaction to or an effect of an internal cause. Looking to discover the inside ‘causes’ of the ‘outside’ effects, can provide the ultimate process for accessing charisma. Additionally, this approach enables anybody to go through a massive transformation if they so wish. The closer you come to the deeper root causes of charisma, the more external ‘effects’ are created.

"Gordon Brown’s last public speech telling the press he had resigned as Prime Minister was delivered in his own words, from his heart and turbo-charged his presence and stature." 
Charismatic people speak from their hearts. If you try to emulate any charismatic individual, you effectively ‘act’, putting on a mask of charisma. You start modelling external characteristics that may or may not reflect your own external characteristics. This immediately blocks the flow of your own authentic persona, consequently diluting the emotional intensity of your communication.
Whatever external mask you choose to wear, if it doesn’t reflect the genuine, authentic ‘you’, this will create a feeling in others that ‘something just isn’t right about this person’. By connecting with the core elements that shape our character, we create the opportunity to develop a charismatic presence. For me, Gordon Brown’s last public speech telling the press he had resigned as Prime Minister was delivered in his own words, from his heart and turbo-charged his presence and stature. Perhaps he should take note from Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the founders of the Transcendental Club and the best public speaker of his time. His charismatic presence was heightened because he spoke from his heart, never compromising his beliefs for popularity. Emerson wisely said, ‘Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.’
Nikki Owen, the UK’s Leading Expert on Charisma and Confidence, runs cutting edge seminars titled ‘An Audience with Charisma’ around the UK. Developed for leaders, managers, trainers and coaches, it will help delegates enhance their personal impact for increased corporate effectiveness.

Nikki has gifted TrainingZone two free places for An Audience with Charisma either in June (The Globe Theatre, London 17th & 18th June) or July (Hotel du Vin, Harrogate 15th & 16th July). To enter simply email Nikki at [email protected] with a compelling reason why you deserve a free place. Entries to be received before midday on June 8th 2010.

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