There is almost the assumption that to be an effective leader one also needs to be charismatic; this larger than life character who fills the room and people just instinctively want to follow. To most this makes sense although people like Jim Collins would claim that humility, which might be viewed at the other end of the spectrum, is more key to effective leadership.
In reading the book Leadership Charisma by Deiric McCann, the author points to some interesting perspective on the importance of charisma and leadership effectiveness. Charisma, he stresses, is about how one behaves and this is something we can choose to do, or not. In other words it can be learned, practiced and mastered. The author purports that charisma might be slightly misunderstood but, that when applied appropriately, can lead to a very high level of leadership effectiveness. In support of this McCann proposes a Leadership Charisma Model that follows this 4 step process:
1. Make a decision to become a charismatic leader by “assimilating the behaviors that typify a charismatic leader.”
2. Build a foundation for your charisma – though much can be learned, there are some natural traits such as confidence and self-belief that are essential foundation blocks. This is aided by “a clear sense of purpose and forward motion”.
3. Fine tune your physical charisma – translate what you are thinking and feeling into how you outwardly present yourself via physical appearance, body language, and general connection with other people.
4. Create a Charismatic Leader’s Persona – this requires that leaders possess the energy and enthusiasm, and an “irrepressible and highly attractive optimism”; this is the ongoing fuel source.
This is certainly an interesting perspective and in some respects taps into many aspects of Emotional Intelligence. Clearly, when one considers an effective charismatic leader, from an introspective point of view, they must possess a high level of self-awareness. But equally important is their ability to connect effectively with others and communicate in a manner that people feel heard and want to follow.
In the current presidential campaign, it would seem that candidates appear charismatic to those who follow them and are despised by those who don’t. To be truly charismatic, you are admired and respected by all, even though not everybody needs to agree with what you say or do. Nelson Mandela was charismatic, even his captors and those who supported apartheid would agree to that, and they too eventually came round in the end. Is charisma truly a choice? You can decide that.