How to Master Charisma and Become a Better Leader
Think back as far as you can remember. Think back to the playgrounds in primary school… to group projects you had to undertake in college… all the way to your most recent job. In those moments in time whatever activity you were undertaking was of the utmost importance in your mind and you wanted to succeed… to win… right?
Now, can you think of a particular team leader on the playground, or a group leader in class, or a manager in your organization that absolutely appealed to you? That absolutely inspired you? That motivated you to put in all your effort? Whose opinion you held in high regard? That made you feel comfortable and included? That you looked up to and emulated? And under whom you felt you were guaranteed victory?… That was charisma. That is what charisma inspires. That was a charismatic leader.
We have been raised in a world where the common opinion is that charisma is a talent that just a few people are lucky enough to be born with. But that is wrong. Charisma and charismatic leadership can be developed in any one of us.
One good example of this is Lee Laccoca. Lee Lacocca, whose real name was Lido Anthony Iacocca, joined Chrysler in the 1970s, tasked to rescue the Company from bankruptcy. Lacocca addressed congress in an attempt secure a substantial loan for the company and anyone who was present observed a charismatic leader at his best.
But who was this man?
Lacocca had an Industrial Engineering undergraduate degree but was unfortunately not blessed with natural charisma, but he acquired the skills necessary to become charismatic. Some other notable examples of his charismatic style can be found in some of his famous statements, for example, ‘If you can find a better car, buy it.’
A simple statement, but such a strong message… It says, ‘We are here and we are the best.’ It inspires confidence and pride in the employees of the company and sells the product with such surety and conviction to the consumer he has to have it.
Charismatic leaders are persuasive and convincing; they are driven by a commitment to their cause. The slightest appearance of hypocrisy or inconsistency will undermine the most persuasive speech and charismatic leaders are able to avoid this through a strong commitment to their convictions.
The charismatic leader embodies the ideal member of the cause, which gives him more credibility because he actually practices what he preaches. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a charismatic leader not only due to his powerful oratory skills but also due to his unwavering commitment to positive non-violent change.
The purpose of this article, therefore, is to explore the general traits of charismatic individuals, some of the benefits of a charismatic leadership, and steps you can take to master charisma and become a better more effective leader.
DISTINGUISHING CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP
Of course charismatic leadership existed long before it was given a label. But how was the distinction made between charismatic leadership and other forms of leadership?
Max Weber was a German sociologist who published a book called ‘The Three Types of Legitimate Rule’ in 1958. Max Webber classified authority into three distinct categories: Traditional, Legal/Rational, and Charismatic.
He proposed that there are two forms of order: Authority and Norms. No order could exist without either of these.
For example, in a Company that practices authoritative order, employees will follow strict rules and regulations set up by the company’s leadership. Similarly, in sovereignties, citizens will follow the laws set up by the legislature and enforced by the police force. Perhaps this is why refer to the police as ‘The Authorities’.
On the other hand, organizations that use norms to bring about order depend on the leaderships’ conveyance of the organization’s vision and mission to inspire followers or employees. According to Webster, charismatic leaders, as opposed to authoritative ones, strongly appeal to their followers/employees on a deeper level. Charismatic leaders use norms as opposed to blunt authoritative force.
This is a more effective leadership style because the followers/employees are actually performing actions because they are inspired and motivated to do so as rather than being driven by fear of consequences that may come with not following directives.
GENERAL TRAITS OF A CHARISMATIC PERSON/LEADER
Like in your days in the playground, when you didn’t even have the slightest clue what charisma was, you will feel charisma when you are exposed to it.
It is far more than someone being likable; a charismatic person draws you to them. A charismatic person, very naturally, motivates and energizes you to take action. Some charismatic people are born that way while some of them learn how to be charismatic, either way they spark a flame inside us that gets us moving.
So what are the general traits attributable to a charismatic person/leader?
They are Happy
One of the first things you will notice in a charismatic person is a certain spark of life within them, a certain enthusiasm, even if you are not certain for what. Whether the charismatic person is good or bad, whether they bring peace or instigate unrest, there is a strong passion within them that evokes powerful emotions in the people around them.
They make people feel good about joining a cause and they evidently derive pleasure from sharing their cause with others. Whether consciously or subconsciously people are able to feel and feed off this passion. This coupled with a feeling of being wanted and needed in the cause draws people to even closer to the person.
They are Confident
A charismatic person seems to be in perfect control of the world around them. Their confidence and level of self-worth always seems to be strong, even when they are may be uncertain on the inside.
They always appear to be certain of their abilities, faith, and knowledge while at the same time maintaining a balance, being very careful not to come off as narcissistic.
A charismatic person brings out his confidence by keeping his insecurities at bay and celebrating his strengths. He shares his confidence with the world and in turn people feel stronger in their presence.
They are Passionate and Committed
You will easily notice a charismatic person when they are standing for a cause because they believe passionately in it and are more than willing to share those beliefs with the people around them.
Their consistent convictions and actions also play a big part in drawing other towards them andin influencing other to follow them. This avails to them a dedicated following that significantly adds to the energy that the charismatic person exudes.
They are Good Communicators
People are not sheep and will not simply follow because they have been requested to. A charismatic person moves people and convinces them to take action, which demands context and motivation.
A charismatic person communicates effectively and shows you exactly why a certain action needs to be taken. They have an ability to express themselves in an intriguing and inspiring way that makes people want to come back, hear more, and do more.
They are Empathetic
A charismatic person will speak to you as though you were the only person in the world. A charismatic person will seem to focus on your words, your eyes, your core, making you feel heard, safe, interesting, and special.
He will appeal to your emotions on a genuine level. In turn you will feel drawn to them… You will feel a need to reciprocate the same by paying the charismatic person them same kind of attention that they gave you. You want to do to them what they have done for you and without knowing it; you are attaching yourself to this person.
This reminds me of quote I read a long time ago by Evelyn Waugh.“We cherish our friends not for their ability to amuse us but for our ability to amuse them.” It’s ironical isn’t it? But it’s quite true if you think about it.
Human beings are creatures of emotion, and we stick with certain people because we have made strong and positive emotions connections.
8 STEPS TO INCREASE YOUR CHARISMA AND BECOME A BETTER LEADER
A charismatic leader does not only inspire people into taking action, he wins the hearts and minds of his following. This is inclusive of the people they lead, their superiors, and even stakeholders in a business setting. Charismatic leaders are often more successful in comparison to non-charismatic leaders.
For example, a study was conducted by Christoph Nohe and Jochen Menges on a large German railway company at a time when the Company was undergoing a major crisis and an internal restructuring process. A web-based survey was conducted on 33 leaders and 142 team members that found that leaders who were change-focused were perceived as charismatic.
The survey also found that a team member who found his leader to be charismatic was more committed to that leader’s cause. The study concluded that where a leader was perceived as charismatic by his followers, it directly enhanced overall team performance of the team.
But do not panic… and no, charisma is not only for the chosen few… Anyone can develop charisma, even you. This section of the article will categorically show you how you can develop your charisma and become and even better and more effective leader.
1. Appeal to the Interests of your Followers
Can you truly be charismatic if the people around you don’t consider you charismatic?… No.
Can one group of people consider you charismatic while another doesn’t?… I believe so, yes. It depends mainly on the interests of each group.
To be a charismatic leader, you have to appeal to the people around you in such a manner that they consider you the ideal leader. Show people that you deeply understand their concerns and that your number one priority is to address those concerns in the best way possible.
The more people realize that you are in genuine support of their interests, the more charismatic you will become in their eyes. To the masses, Perception is Reality.
So, find out about what matters to your followers or the people you intend to make your followers and show genuine interest in those matters, make those matters your priority and you will earn your trust, making you the best suited leader for them.
2. Be a Good Listener/Observer
Listen to your followers or the people you want to lead. This means striving to understand their histories, ambitions, what inspires them, what they respond to, their motivators, their modes of expression… This ensures that when you begin to speak to them you speak with a clear understanding of where they come from and where they are headed while simultaneously expressing yourself in a manner that they can relate to.
For example, if you are addressing a crowd that responds to a language of vision, opportunity, and promise of better future and you present them with numbers and data, you build a barrier that will bar you from appealing to the crowd. But if you presented the same message to the same crowd in the manner that they respond to, you automatically come off as more charismatic and suited for leadership.
Being a good listener will convince your followers that you are not simply there to fill in the leadership position; rather you are there to actually serve their interests. Being a good listener will also make you a better leader in the sense that you will now intimately understand your followers’ needs and wants, which will make you better positioned to satisfy those needs.
Like one of the 48 Laws of Power, Understand who you’re Dealing With.
3. Blend In
This is an extension of Step 2 above. If you set yourself apart from the people you are leading or the people you intend to lead you may not come off as charismatic as you hoped to be. You may not end up being the most suitable leader for those people.
Level yourself with your followers and connect with them from diverse angles. However, I am not encouraging you to masquerade and pretend to be something you are not; people tend to see through this and it may be detrimental to your leadership. Instead, find out what you have in common with your followers or potential followers and shed light on that.
For example, demonstrate the same amount of ease addressing board members as you have addressing subordinate staff within a business organization. Master a habit of finding a common identity with the people you encounter and using that as a focal point for how best to relate with them and you will come off as more charismatic. This will also give you an avenue to better get in touch with your following, equipping you with more knowledge and information on how to better serve them.
Here, humor is a great way to really get in touch with people. You could even give a story where you are a victim. Barack Obama is known to put himself on the spot, which gives his followers a warm perception of him and strengthening the connection they feel they have with him. However, be careful with humor, understand the boundaries and after a good laugh, revert to subject of achieving the goals at hand.
4. Be Inclusive
Always include your followers by using words like ‘us’ and ‘we’ instead of ‘me’ and ‘I’. This kind of inclusive language will make your followers or your intended followers feel wanted and a real part of the cause.
It will remind them that you share their goals and ambitions and that you are affected by the same issues, and that they relate to you the best. This will automatically enhance your followers’ perception of you as a charismatic leader. Empower other to speak and feel relevant and in turn they will love you for it.
5. Be Engaging
As a leader you have already come up with a manifesto in your mind and, as such, it is natural to want to solve various issues with little or no consultation. However, avoid this habit and constantly remind yourself to engage others by including them in the creation of solutions to various issues.
Share your approaches, listen to suggestions, respond constructively, and show appreciation for your followers’ contributions. You will appear more charismatic and become a better leader not by isolating yourself but by being on the ground with the people.
A good example here is Che Guevara who would regularly leave the comfort of his office to participate in a construction projects with regular citizens, which made him a model leader and made him appear even more charismatic and appealing than he already was to the people.
6. Be Honest and Dependable
As mentioned earlier, inconsistency in your actions will discredit even the most inspiring speeches. Nothing will repel your followers more than the perception of dishonesty in you. To be a charismatic leader you have to be dependable.
Your followers have to believe through a consistency in events that you are a trustworthy person and they will follow you without question. Master this and you will not only be regarded as a charismatic leader but a good leader. This step will also make a very happy individual.
“Happiness is when the words you speak and your actions are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Take a second to reflect on this?… Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to follow through with exactly what you had said you would do? Don’t you feel guilty when you do not keep your word?
7. Be Fully Committed to the Goals of the Cause
A charismatic leader leads by example. The reason this comes so easy to them is because they have committed, more than anyone else, to the cause and they realize that their own commitment is crucial for the groups drive. You have to believe in the truth of the messages you are passing on to your followers or potential followers.
The same applies to lying (I’m not saying you should. Do not). The best liars are the ones who can convince themselves for a moment that their lies are true.
To be a charismatic leader you have to show your followers that you are willing to go the distance and do whatever it takes to reach the group’s goal. This evidently deep commitment will portray you, and in reality make you, a great and genuine leader while simultaneously motivating your followers to follow in your example.
8. Be Warm
This is perhaps the most important step towards becoming a truly charismatic and great leader.
We mentioned that human beings are creatures of emotion. Warmth is the final ingredient through which you can convince your followers that you will use the power they have accorded you, or the power that you seek, for their best interests.
This way people will willingly follow you of their own volition and you won’t even need to regularly assert your authority. Bill Clinton has been said to exude this kind of warm aura to the people around him, which is why he still has such as dedicated following even after his tenure.
You cannot fake warmth, it has to be genuine. You can be as polite as you possibly can be, but warmth comes from a much deeper place inside of us. Everyone can feel it when they are in the presence of a truly warm person.
So how can you make sure that your warmth is felt by the people you encounter?
Set aside any insecurities and personal concerns when you are dealing with other people, these insecurities serve as barriers to warmth. Insecurities bar your own warmth towards yourself and it is hard to concentrate on anyone else when you are not at peace with yourself, so handle those insecurities and learn to celebrate your strengths. Self-love is where warmth is rooted.
For that brief moment you are interacting with your followers or potential followers, genuinely focus on them. People can feel this; people can feel when someone else is truly engaged.
To master warmth, you could also study some of the people you look up to, meditate on them and regularly channel the warmth that they brought to your world. It could be Gandhi, Dr. Luther, Mother Theresa, your father, a religious figure… whoever or whatever has ever evoked a feeling of warmth and safety at your core. Now share that feeling with the world and everyone you encounter will instantly be drawn to you while you become an even better leader at the same time.
If you practice these simple steps regularly and make them a habit, they will always come to you naturally and your charisma will skyrocket alongside the quality of your leadership.
BENEFITS OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP
There are numerous benefits that emanate from Charismatic Leadership. Charismatic leaders are catalyst for social change. They ensure that processes run smoothly and that the people are properly motivated, working towards a cause autonomously without the need for authoritative force.
So, what are some of the benefits you will realize as a leader from mastering charisma?
Charisma is a perception from others that you have influence and that you get things done. As opposed to having been merely assigned power as a result of your wealth, level of education, physical appearance…people will view you as a leader due to your personal attributes.
Power acquired through intimidation or authoritative force is not sustainable. With charisma people know that they do not have to follow you simply because they have been instructed to… They actually want to follow you, authority or not… and that is true power.
In the movie ‘The God Father’, Michael Corleone travels to a Cuba plagued by civil unrest and witnesses a rebel explode a grenade while being arrested by military personnel killing himself and a few soldiers around him in the process. Later Michael says to his companions something to the effect of, “It occurred to me that the rebels could win, because the soldiers are paid to fight and the rebels aren’t.”
The rebels fought because they believed in their cause and were willing to do whatever it is that the cause demanded of them. The same applies with charisma. When you get people to believe wholeheartedly in you as their leader, you do not need further incentive to be able to steer them into whatever direction you will. They will follow willingly because they believe you share the same beliefs and that as a genuine leader, you will never mislead them.
Ease of Selling a Vision
As a charismatic leader, you will be able to easily sell a vision to your followers or intended followers because they already convinced of your good intentions and capabilities. By mastering charisma you will become easily successful at convincing your followers of various potentials, opportunities, and possibilities.
Since you will already understand your crowd, you will also be able to weave anecdotes that appeal to the people, making them buy into the bigger picture. Similarly, due to your understanding of your crowd, you will be able to serve their needs aided by your sharp listening and observation skills.
For example, a charismatic leader will be able to differentiate between what an organization needs from the employees and what the employees need from the employees and address both at the same time. This results in a mutually beneficial mechanism where the employees feed off the vision and become motivated to achieve organizational goals and in turn the organization serves the employees’ needs.
A highly charismatic leader will have their followers doing just about anything. I mean, look at Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, Iddi Amin, King Leopold II, Jim Jones…
Once you have mastered charisma and you have captured the hearts and minds of your audience you are in a position to inspire action and drive results. With charisma you will be capable of achieving results that other styles of leadership would be incapable of achieving, making you leadership effective in any kind of situation.
However, this is not to say that charismatic leadership doesn’t have its shortcomings.
LIMITATIONS OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP
The very first disadvantage of charismatic leadership is that there is a risk of the group depending too much on your guidance that they suppress their own individual values, beliefs, and ideas believing yours to be supreme.
This is especially so when their own ideas or beliefs conflict with yours. This is a dangerous situation because people tend to follow you even when they feel that they are heading in the wrong direction, but they dare not question their leader.
However, this can be avoided by religiously practicing Step 4 above: Being Inclusive. Ensure that all your followers feel free to share and express their opinions and views with you. Do not be dismissive or condescending to any one even when they are voicing an idea or opinion you believe to be wrong.
In such a situation, casually show them why they are wrong and why you are right. Similarly, do not be afraid to accept better ideas or correction from your followers when necessary.
Charisma can become extremely addictive because you can actually see the effect you have on others and the way in which they regard you and look up to you. It is possible to get sucked into your own charisma where you forget that leadership is service to others and not the other way around. There is the danger of using your charisma to accomplish personal goals as opposed to those of the group.
Therefore, constantly monitor your leadership and regularly ask a close confidant to assess that leadership in order to ascertain that you have not let your newfound power go to your head. Ensure that you do not lose sight of what is important, which is the best interest of your followers or intended followers.
To realize the benefits of charismatic leadership, constantly follow the steps provided and regularly monitor your leadership to avoid being counter-productive by turning the strength of charismatic leadership into a weakness.
In a highly competitive world, be it in the field of business, politics, religion, or everyday societal life, the ability of institutions to realize their goals is highly dependent on the effectiveness of the leadership in those institutions. Behind every successful institution is a leadership that can drive action to realize overall objectives.
A charismatic leader is able to gain the trust of his followers inspire, guide, and motivate the group to meet its targets. Trust is necessary in a leader-follower relationship because trust is the glue that binds a follower to his leader, in turn causing action.
People will naturally follow a leader who gets them sold and excited about a vision. While a leader can be effective without charisma, that kind of leadership would only be effective where there is a rigid system in place, where people are guided by strict authoritative rules.
Think of a police man stopping you randomly in your car to demand that you provide your driver’s license… do you really follow the instructions because you are so eager to do so, or is it because there are set laws that demand that you comply with the law enforcement’s authority?
Possessing charisma as a leader is a huge asset. It ensures that your followers follow you willingly and as opposed to authoritative leadership, this is lasting and sustainable power.
Of course, we have realized that charismatic leadership can become negative really fast if applied blindly or unethically… But its pros outweigh its cons, especially seeing as its limitations can be avoided by exercising just a bit of caution.
Follow the simple steps discussed above to master your charisma. Your charismatic leadership will make you a better and more effective leader who is truly in service to his people and who has lasting and sustainable authority.
You will be able to better articulate your vision, inspire, and motivate your followers towards achieving common objectives… And since as a charismatic leader you will be in touch with your followers, you will understand their wants and needs, which you will be in a position to address…creating and environment of all-round satisfaction for everyone.